Thunder Struck

A clap of thunder just tore through my quiet this morning followed by the irregular, staccato beat of a dozen heavy raindrops clattering on my rooftop.  Moments later the clouds unleashed an assault of such ferocity that I ran to the balcony to witness what I thought would surely be the end of the world as we know it.  Excessive rain.  Major thunderstorm. 

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It’s raining.  It’s pouring.  It’s still warm though.  I sat on my comfy day bed on my beautiful (and 10 weeks later finally completed) balcony and watch the storm pounding the village around me.  I am glad to see the rain too but my reason is a little more selfish.  I love the sound of rain.  I love the smell of rain as it clears away the dust.  I particularly love the smell of rain here as it lands on the mint crop across from my house.  The scent of mint wafts up to the balcony and makes everything smell of toothpaste minty freshness.

I sit with my cup of tea and my Hurley Dog sleeping next to me and enjoy the sounds and smell.  My Hurley Dog is dreaming I think because he growled in his sleep.  Maybe he is having a nightmare about the rain.  My love is his hate because when it rains it gets muddy – really, really muddy – and this means baths, lots of baths.

Lots of Love

Yesterday morning I woke to the most fantastic news.  My amazing friend Mich and her partner P ran away together and got married.  Congratulations to my beautiful friend.  It was at this moment I realised just how far away I am from her.  I cannot give her a hug and a kiss.  I cannot raise my glass to her and her new husband.  I cannot blubber like a baby (I always blubber like a baby at weddings).  I miss her very much.

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I have known Mich for well over a quarter of a century but this does not make me feel old.  This means that I have laughed with her, loved with her, fought with her, lived with her and travelled with her for over half of my life.  Today I miss her more than ever.

All of my friends are a long way from here.  They are all busy with their lives, family, job, commitments.  I know how lucky I am to have this experience but how I want to be in Sydney right now.  I write this blog, mostly for me but also for my friends and family who are so far away but are still with me in my heart.  It is difficult today being here.

To Mich and P, you were meant to be.  A lifetime of happiness together.

(And yes I am blubbering right now).

Tomato Trauma

Anyone who knows me personally knows two things.  One – I am a drama queen.  Totally.  Factual.  Well documented.  Examples can be provided upon request.  The other is that I hate tomatoes. 

Hate is a strong word.  I often remind Daughter that she should never hate anything or anyone.  It is such a negative emotion but here I am shouting it from the rooftops.  I hate tomatoes.  I really, really hate them.

It all goes back to a childhood trauma from the early ‘70’s.  A trauma that was so horrific that both my brother and I have never allowed fresh tomato to cross our lips.  What was this trauma that caused such pain to these two children you wonder?  Are you ready?  *Deep breath*  My mother made my brother and I eat tomato sandwiches for lunch.  Yep.  That is it.  A plain old tomato sandwich. 

If one asked me to explain this trauma now, as an adult, I can say that the issue stems from the fact that a tomato sandwich in itself is boring.  Not just boring it also has the potential to be sloppy.  A tomato sandwich needs a moisture barrier to protect the bread so that it does not become a pink goopy mess.  A piece of ham.  A slice of cheese.  These two items form the protective barrier necessary to ensure that your sandwich is edible.  But as a kid it was just gross and we were not going to eat it!  Fed up our mother made us sit at the table until the sandwich, which was quickly disintegrating into a mess of goopy bread and warmer than hell-fire raw tomato, was consumed.  I remember one of us falling asleep on the sandwich that day.  Childhood trauma exposed. 

Nearly (or possibly more) than 40 years later I find myself living in a country where tomato is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And guess what?  I think I could be putting my childhood trauma behind me because I can tolerate tomato now.  In small doses.  Very small doses.  My current favourite is a Acile Ezme

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Similar to a spicy salsa but the tomato is cut so small that it is practically pureed it is definitely a tomato dish that I can stomach.  My sister in law makes it in no time flat.  Basically biber paste, cumin and domates.  My sister in law adds sarimasak (garlic) and soğan (onion) as well.  It is magic in your mouth.  My other favourite is, of course, the well-loved tabouleh.  I am a pretty dab hand at making it now and I mask the tomato with a heap of parsley that again you can hardly taste it.  So there you have it Jane now eats tomato. 

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My fear and absolute distaste of fresh tomatoes may be diminishing but I can assure you if I suddenly found myself in Bunol, Spain celebrating its Tomatina Festival it would be like living a nightmare.  A Freddy Kreuger, Elm Street infused nightmare! 

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An Update on Stanley

I thought you would all appreciate knowing how Stanley is.  Just to remind you Stanley is one of our Karaduvar Kedi’s and was hit by a car a couple of weeks ago.  The Turk whisked him off to the vet where his tail was, unfortunately, gangrene and was amputated.  Funnily enough this is our second cat that has had his tail amputated (although officially Stanley is not our cat – I have to make that clear as The Turk is back to his grumpy ways about me feeding all the strays around here). 

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Many years ago I had a cat which was named “Jon Louis Scheftsik” or “Chevy” for short.  The motto “YOLO” or “You Only Live Once” explained this cat to a tee.  Chevy loved to sleep in the sunshine however he usually liked to do that in the middle of the road.  In the space of his 20-odd years he had been hit by a car at least four times, had tick poisoning on two separate occasions and generally caused more havoc than he was worth.  He did lose his tail though.  At first it was just the tip however the gangrene had spread too quickly so two operations and nearly $2,000 later the vet took the whole tail off.  He did not seem to mind however, he was still as silly as he was pre-loss of tail.  He died a couple of years back and, in case you are wondering, yes he was hit by a car.  Unfortunately I could not find a photo of him but he was a beautiful grey and white kitty with a spot on the end of his nose.

Anyway back to Stanley – he seems to have made a full recovery.  Well not a full recovery but is probably at about 70%.  I expect that he is still very sore.  He finished his course of antibiotics and we still spray the antiseptic onto his stitches but he is back to meowing at the top of his lungs.  He has, however, become a bit of a grumpy old troll.  Not with us mind you just with all the other Karaduvar Kedi’s and in particular the ones that favour Daughter and I.  It is clear that he has now taken ownership of our building.  Everything and everyone in the building falls under his domain.  If any of the other cats come within spitting distance of our building there is an all-mighty ruckus downstairs and one of us have to go and break them up.  The bloody cat will injure itself if he’s not careful.

Right now he is sitting on my welcome mat waiting for me to open the door.  Daughter keeps putting biscuits out there so I guess he will not be going anywhere anytime soon but that’s alright with me.  He is definitely a friendly little stray and even though he will not be allowed inside he is definitely welcome anytime.

Expats Wanted – Apply Within

Being an expat is bloody hard.  You are uprooted from your place of birth (usually voluntarily), drop kicked into a country where possibly no one speaks your native tongue and you spend your first few days completely shell-shocked and shaking while trying to find a place to live, get a job and re-start your life from scratch.  I am sorry to tell you my friend there is something else that you need to do.  You also need to throw yourself into the deep end of social interaction. You find yourself scanning crowds, searching for anyone that may come from your homeland and if you find anyone (and I mean anyone) who has an accent similar to your own you pounce on that person with the hope that they will become your new best friend.

I think I had it pretty easy when I first got here.  I had family.  People who actually like me (well most of them anyway).  I wonder how I would have coped being in Mersin, in Turkey, without family to support me and I shudder at the thought.  I imagine I would probably be holed up in my room, rocking back and forth, mumbling “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oy, oy, oy” while eating the unpacked cardboard boxes at my feet.

Having my blog has helped me meet new people and I think it has been a pretty successful venture.  I often get emails from people via the blog or on Facebook who are expats in Mersin or thinking about moving to Mersin, hopeful of meeting some new people or wanting advice.  I try and get together with all of them too although they have not always been successful meets.

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Today I was at the Forum which is a large shopping centre near Pozcu where I caught up with a few expats who I had met through my blog.  A coffee and a chat.  Commiserate at their dramas and laugh at their triumphs.  After coffee I left them to meet Daughter and her cousin at McDonalds.  Living in the Village there is no takeaway.  Wait.  I lie.  You can get a Tantuni delivered (which I love) for 3TL (about $1.50) but your standard burger and chips is just not available so when we go to The Forum Daughter always froths at the mouth in the hope for a greasy fix.  I watched her and her friend order their meal from my nearby table and then noticed Daughter talking to a lady in the queue behind her.  I always maintain a ‘no talk’ rule with Daughter regarding strangers and I was starting to get a little annoyed at her complete disregard to my rule but she was so animated with the conversation that I forgot to be annoyed and was more curious about what they were talking about.  Daughter’s meal arrived but she ignored it and continued to talk to the stranger.  When the stranger’s meal arrived she brought the lady over to our table.

“Mum.  This is Evelyn.  She lives here and I helped her order lunch.”

Evelyn smiled meekly, “Your daughter asked me to join you for lunch.”

Daughter took Evelyn’s tray and set it down beside me, “There you go Mum.  Another one for your little group.”

I had to laugh at the look on Daughter’s face.  She was ecstatic with the thought that she had played matchmaker and that Mum had a potential new friend.  I know she worries about Mum being lonely when she is at school or at a friend’s house.  So Evelyn sat down and we had a long yarn about her move to Mersin from Scotland.  She is in love and hopes to be married before too long.  Hmmm – boy have I heard a few stories recently about this subject.  I say nothing and merely nod enthusiastically when she suggests that The Turk and I come along to her wedding in April (with Daughter as bridesmaid of course).

So there you go.  Another little friend for my expat group.  If there are any more of you out their get in touch – the more the merrier!

The Lord of the Kimlik

“One does not simply walk into Mordor.  Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs.  There is evil there that does not sleep.  The great Eye is ever watchful.”

When Tolkien wrote this I wonder if he had already had the great misfortune to attend at a Government Office in Turkey because these words have never been so true.

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Before Daughter and I left Australia we had foolishly assumed that obtaining the correct residence visa was going to be a piece of cake.  It would be no more than a quick trip to the Turkish Consulate in Sydney and they would welcome us with open arms.  Hosgeldiniz.  After that fateful first trip to the Consulate it became quite clear that this was not going to be as simple as originally thought and that the journey to residency was long and thwart with peril.  In the end due to delays and the wrong paperwork Daughter and I actually entered Turkey on a tourist visa and I knew that I was now going to have to sort out the visas here.  In Mersin.  Turkey.  Yikes!

The first time I attended at the Emniyet in Mersin I will be honest.  I was nervous.  I mean the Consulate in Sydney was bloody hard so I can only imagine what it was going to be like here.  I had arrived the night before and was jet lagged and grumpy.  This was not a good start to what was going to be a very long, very tedious day.  The Turk’s brother had taken a week off work to assist with the difficulties (read that as nonsense) that is the Turkish Government and our first stop was at the Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü (Turkish National Police) so we could obtain a Residence Permit.  We ran up and down stairs (why is there no lift?) in 40 degree heat (why is there no air conditioning?) and waited in queues that went down the corridor before being issued with a number(!) to be dealt with.  When you are issued the number 74 your heart begins to sink and as there are no chairs available (after all there are 73 people ahead of you) I leaned against the wall, sweat pouring down my back while staring at a photograph of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  It is a long wait.  People come and go.  Smells come and go.  I try in vain to translate the signs on the wall.  Cay comes and goes but none is offered to the suffering hordes.  I watch other, more successful, people make their way to the front of the queue.  I listen to the numbers being called.  So close.  So very close.  And then – it’s lunchtime.  We are ushered out of the building.  My postal levels are high but watching The Turk’s brother I can see that he is also becoming quite frustrated with the wait.  After the lunch break I returned to my wall and started to doze when suddenly, joyously, our number is called.  Hallelujah.  Praise the Lord or Allah or whatever!  My brother in law fought his way to the front of the counter where a heavily moustached, non-smiling government employee, glanced at the papers before handing them back.  We are missing a document.  Come again.

It took me four trips to obtain my Yabancilara Mahsus Ikamet Tezkeresi or Residence Permit for Foreigners.  I think that this is probably quite straight forward normally but as The Turk was not with us it made completing the documentation exponentially difficult.  I cursed The Turk a lot those first few days.

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As a resident of Turkey I also needed to obtain a Kimlik number.  As a foreigner I am not eligible for a TC Kimlik and instead I obtained a Yabanci Kimlik No.  Pretty much the same thing but we are identified with the number “99” as the first two digits.  Getting a Yabancı kimlik No. is actually pretty easy because you do it online and any excuse to not walk into a Turkish Government office is a win-win in my mind.

Fast forward a few months and The Turk reminded me that I still needed to get my citizenship finalised (which was lodged the previous September).  Foreigner’s can become Turkish citizens if they jump through a number of ridiculously difficult hoops but being a Turkish citizen does mean that I no longer need to fluff around with visas and various other benefits as a long term resident.

After a tedious number of hours at the Emniyet we finally received the news that my application was now held by the Nufus Office or also known by other poor yabancı as Mordor, which is well known by all as a treacherous journey, full of peril all in an attempt to retrieve ‘my precious’ also known as my kimlik card.  The Turk and I have attended this office so many times over the past week that the polis remember us and let us through without going through the metal detectors or standing in the queues.  We have attended this office so many times that the employees recognise us “Yabancı” (a most hated word) and “Al Pacino” (Good Lord!).  We have attended this office so many times that when the documents were finally stamped there was a united cheer and a lot of handshaking and congratulations from staff who proudly told us that in “six months or so” I will have my official kimlik card!  Six months!  Wow!  They did mention to us that there would be a polis check and, of course, that other well known yabancı terror known as the Interview but then it should be smooth sailing.

As I write this I feel a sense of forboding akin to Frodo before he started on his great journey:

Aragorn: Are you frightened?
Frodo:  Yes.
Aragon:  Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you.

Oh incidentally Daughter’s kimlike was actually issued back in Australia but no one told us so we find ourselves now liaising with the Consulate back in Sydney in an attempt to locate it.  I feel another journey coming on.

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Spit or Swallow?

I have a friend named Millie who, along with her family, is lucky enough to be spending a year in Italy.  We are similar people Millie and I, in similar situations and, those who look at her blog, will see we too have similar styles (hello Confit theme).

I originally met Millie at a health centre in North Sydney.  We both took a Cardiolates class together which for me, as someone who hated exercising, I actually loved.  How could it be exercise when you were on a trampoline bouncing around to music?   Our kids also went to the same school so it was no surprise that we finally crossed paths.

Millie recently wrote a piece here about the darker side of Italy and it brought a big grin to my face when reading it. 

In short Millie has taken good issue with the fact that she is in the beautiful Tuscany countryside but spends most of her life with her head down dodging poop (canine) or vomit (human) on the streets.  Like I said I laughed out loud when I read this because in Turkey the pooping and spitting is rife (I have not yet spotted vomit thankfully). 

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The dog poop does my head in.  When I left Australia I brought 10 packets of doggy poop bags with me (I am ready for approximately 1000 poops by My Hurley Dog when on our frequent walks) however I find myself picking up not just my dog’s poop but the poop from strays as well as other dogs whose owners just ignore the fact that their dog is dropping their bundle out the front of my home.  It seems that the local strays have turned the little track that leads of our house into their toilet and every morning there is new and sometimes explosive doggy poop to wash away.  Daughter (who is reading over my shoulder) just pointed out to me that there is horse poop also on the track.  Horse poop is fine.  It is fertilizer.  It doesn’t even smell that bad and it is from a working horse not a stray dog.

Then there is the spitting.  I know it is a common practice in Asia and the Middle East and the Turks are well versed with the ideology of hocking up your lurgy and spitting it to the ground.  I accept that to them it is more appropriate to do this than to use a tissue (although I am at a loss as to why this is more appropriate) and I completely understand that some people have health issues and need to clear their passages but come on!  I really have no interest in watching a middle aged, portly Turkish man (or woman!) launch a grenade-like  green substance onto the street.  Even worse is when I watch a young man or a child spit as they pass.  I want to yell at them, “Don’t do it.  You are never going to get a girlfriend” but all these boys grow into men and, of course, the circle of spit continues.

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As I am typing this paragraph alone I can hear the builder’s next door working and I think I have heard at least 3 flying lurgies with such ferocity that they shook my windows.  Nice!  Daughter has just piped up with “Better out than in.”  I am thinking about sending her from the room.

I recall reading an article last year about a Professor travelling through Asia to study the cultural differences of spitting.  Well!  Imagine putting that on your resume. 

“Good day and nice to meet you.  I am Professor Blah Blah and this class is Spitting 101.”

He sounds hot doesn’t he?

I am sorry to anyone who is offended by my giggle.  I mean no personal offence.  I understand it is cultural and a health issue at times, but please, I find myself dodging spit bombs as I walk down the street and wonder if I should be wearing a raincoat for protection.  Daughter final input to today’s blog is the suggestion that gumboots would be necessary for protection and, of course, and to match the raincoat.  Because style is important!

I will finish this by asking the question – Is Justin Bieber Turkish?  Biber?  Turkish word.  Spitting?  Hmmm.

Vegetable Patch

Wow!  Spring has definitely started to show itself around these parts.  Aside from the sensational weather my vegetable patch has finally begun to reap reward. 

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While nosing around my little bache (farm) today with The Turk I found my broccoli sprouting along with cauliflower and lettuce.  I was so excited as honestly I have never grown anything before so I was pretty keen today to start bringing in my haul but The Turk wisely pointed out they are mere babies and with patience they will be much bigger in a week or so. Patience (which I have little of) is the key when you want to harvest your crop (imagine me using the word ‘harvest’). I think the best part of this story is that everything grown is organic.  No pesticides.  No chemicals.  Does that make it organic?  I am not sure but I will say that they have got to be better for you than what I would normally buy from the supermarket in Sydney.

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My nectarine tree has flowered and hopefully will start to bare fruit.  I am currently looking into a pesticide for my fruit trees because they definitely had some nasty looking insects buzzing around them the other day and I do not want to be stung by one of those buggers.  My neighbour suggested a spray of hot pepper and detergent (well that was as close as I could translate anyway) as a deterrent to the stingers.  I going to need to investigate this a little more before I start mushing up chilli. 

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Oh and finally our chilli plants are already flowering.  The Turk has been “sexing them up” so they start baring chilli.  So excited.

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Stanley

The Turk has disclosed his deeply guarded secret.  It seems he is a bit of an old softie at heart.  As you know since my mother in law’s passing our family has taken over feeding the Karaduvar Kedi’s.  This has been generally successful ie My Hurley Dog has only chased the cats a few times, the Turk always buys extra cat biscuits (when they are on sale) and Daughter is happy that the cats have not been discarded by the family. 

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Let me introduce you to Stanley.  Named by Daughter Stanley is a personable little beggar.  Has a very distinct meow you can hear two towns over and loves nothing more than to sit on your lap (or your shoulder).  I would often open my front door to find Stanley sitting patiently by the door in the hope of a feed or a pet and he would often walk around the block with My Hurley Dog and I (at a reasonable distance as My Hurley Dog would sometimes give chase).

When Daughter and I returned from Istanbul she did her usual head count of the Karaduvar Kedi’s and Stanley was missing.  “He’s probably just out in the garden somewhere,” was my suggestion.  Another couple of days passed and Stanley was still nowhere to be found, “Dead,” I whispered to The Turk out of Daughter’s earshot.  He would shrug and change the subject, after all he is not a fan of the Karaduvar Kedi’s.

Last Saturday night we were having a BBQ at my father in law’s house.  Suddenly Daughter screamed from the street out front.  I ran out to find her bent over what appeared to be a dead cat, “Mum, it’s Stanley.  Look at his tail!”

I looked.  Gangrene.  Yikes.  Poor buggar was probably hit by a car.  Probably about a week ago.  Frankly it was a miracle that it lasted this long.  I chased all the children away and ran to get a cage but by the time I returned Stanley had disappeared.  Daughter was distraught but The Turk and I got her off to bed and went back outside to search for him to no avail.

On Tuesday night I was taking My Hurley Dog for a walk when he started going crazy at an abandoned shop.  I stopped and stared at the door (must have looked like quite the goose).  I put my ear closer and could hear that distinct little meow albeit quite weak meow that belonged to Stanley.  I ran back home and grabbed the cage and The Turk.  He broke into the shop (“it’s ok it belongs to my cousin” was his reply when I questioned his breaking and entering) and searching through the darkness he finally found Stanley cowering in the corner. 

With some BBQ chicken and a miracle Stanley came over to The Turk (still walking = good sign) and we got him into a cage.  Wednesday morning The Turk took Stanley to the vet and stayed with him most of the day (because he did not want him to be alone).  Stanley was operated on and unfortunately the gangrene was pretty bad.  He lost his tail but the vet was positive with the outcome of the operation.  Stanley should recover from this ordeal a little wiser (keep away from cars) and a little lighter (well he has lost his tail). 

The Turk brought Stanley home last night and we moved the walking wounded in the empty apartment downstairs along with My Hurley Dog’s bed, more BBQ chicken, water and milk.  The Turk sat with him for a while “just to make sure he is alright”.

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When I woke this morning The Turk was not beside me.  I got up and, on a hunch, scooted downstairs.  Low and behold there he was on the floor with Stanley asleep beside him.  Yep it seems The Turk is a bit of a softie despite his gruffness to most of the world.  He had better watch out.  People are going to think he is nice or something.

Schapelle

I need to go off topic for a moment.  I know this is a blog about living in Turkey and its trials and successes but the story of Schapelle Corby has been blasted all over every social and media website that I have looked on today so I may as well have my ‘two cents worth’.

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For those of you who do not know I am Australian and, like many Australians, I was fascinated by the story of Schapelle Corby.  In 2004 Schapelle travelled to Bali with friends for a surfing holiday.  On arrival at Denpasar International Airport her luggage was searched by customs officers who found 4.2 kilograms of cannabis in her board bag.  Convicted in 2005 she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Kerobokan Prison. 

I do not care if she did bring the drugs into Bali (although she has always denied her doing so and has maintained her innocence steadfastly throughout the entire ordeal).  I really do not give a toss.  I will, however, be interested to see just how the media portray her over the coming weeks, months and, no doubt, years.  Her first interview will be worth millions.  Will she be able to trust any person that she meets or will they all be trying to make money off her?  The paparazzi will chase her for months.  First photo.  First outing.  First swim.  First whatever.  I just hope that after the initial juggernaut that is ‘Schapelle’ ends they will leave her to get the treatment that she needs and allow her to heal in peace.

Here I am writing about her as well.  Have I become part of the circus that is probably camped outside her sister’s home right now?  Do I have a right to an opinion about this woman?  Of course I do but do I have the right to send my opinion out into the blog-o-sphere?  Maybe.  I understand that Australian television had a TV-movie rushed to release last night – glad I missed it. 

Rant over – back to normal scheduled programming and a photo of Sultanahmet Camii that I took on my recent trip to Istanbul – go about your day now.

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