Two Years Ago

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my father, his wife and my brother.  I sat there listening to a doctor tell my father that he had no time left, that the cancer was winning and to make arrangements for palliative care.

I had no idea.  I had no idea that he was sick.  I knew he had had surgery in January but he and his wife still travelled overseas in February.  They were even making plans to go away in July.  He was not sick.  He was fine. 

I had been in Mersin in April when I received an email from my brother telling me to come home, telling me that our Dad was ill.  No one told me.  Dad didn’t tell me.  His wife didn’t tell me.  I then got an email from my boss telling me to come home.  I was scared.  I tried to telephone my Dad and my brother but I could not get onto any of them as there had been a big storm in Mersin and it had knocked out all telephone and internet.  I finally got onto my Dad and he said he was fine.  His voice was cheerful, he was telling jokes.  My Dad always told jokes, legendary jokes.  He said that my brother was being overly concerned. 

It took days but I finally got onto my brother who told me to come home – now.

My next problem was getting a flight.  This is not always easy.  We had flights arranged for the next week.  I tried to change it.  It was difficult.

I finally got home.  I spoke to my brother.  I still remember it.  I arrived home at 11 pm and I rang my brother first thing the next morning.

“Jane, there is nothing they can do.”  I was at the shopping centre buying milk and bread for breakfast.  I collapsed on the floor and wept.  People walked around me, embarrassed by my outburst.  I did not care.

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my dad, his wife and my brother.  Two years ago today I was told that my first love, my dad, was being taken from me forever.  Little did I know that it would be a mere 3 weeks before he left me.

Two years ago.

Sampiyon Fenerbahçe

In the 1970’s I was a child on the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.  My childhood was full of sunshine, fun times and forever memories.  Another thing my childhood was full of was rugby league.  My family supported the Mighty Sea Eagles and I learnt the love the brutish, forceful art that is the footy.

Living in Turkey and being a good Turkish housewife I support The Turk’s forever team of Fenerbahce.  I have previously hung my head in shame and disclosed to you that The Turk is a futbol hooligan and quite the embarrassment when his team is winning.  He is even more of an embarrassment if his team should, God forbid, lose.

Last night Fenerbahce clinched their 19th Turkish league title with a 0-0 draw against Caykur Rizespor.  The match itself was a bore.  To me a 0-0 draw means that nothing feking happened.  It means that there were grown mean running up and down the field chasing a little ball and no one found the goal.  It also means that these grown men got to behave like little girls – a lot – by throwing themselves on the ground and crying foul on the other team, cursing each other and basically acting like a bunch of toddlers at every opportunity.  To prove my point that they are a bunch of girly girls there were in fact no male supporters allowed at the match yesterday evening – the biggest match of the year had no men in the stadium!  It seems that Fenerbahce was being punished for bad behaviour at an earlier match and male supporters were suspended from the crowd.  This is just surreal.  I cannot imagine someone telling my brother or his mates “Sorry guys you can’t go and watch the Eagles today as they are being punished”.  Pffttt!

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Anyway Fenerbahce are the 2013/2014 Champions and The Turk and his friends went wild, running out of the house whooping and yelling before disappearing into the night.  When he returned this morning he smelt like a brewery but, despite his obvious hangover, he was still celebrating his team’s victory.

“This is a historical moment in our lives,” The Turk said to me over his kahvalti (breakfast) of two headache tablets and coffee.  “A great victory and we are blessed to be a part of it”.

Now this is football

Now this is football

Honestly I just don’t get it.  I want to see these “Champions” survive just one game of rugby league.  See how you would cry then, ya big babies!

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Standing on the Peninsular

For many of us Aussies a pilgrimage to Gelibolu or Gallipoli is a must do in our lifetime.  The area is steeped in history, an ancient history, a pained history and a history of heroism by the boys and men who left home yearning for adventure, ready to fight for their King and country only to lose their lives and lay buried far from home.

Looking across Gelibolu Peninsular

Looking across Gelibolu Peninsular

Daughter and I travelled to the Gallipoli peninsular a few years back and had the good fortune of being shown the area by a Turkish author whose books explored the history in a Turkish light.  Slightly different to the stories that I had grown up with but the one thing that stood out to me was the number of young men who died on both sides.  Australia lost over 8000 men at Gallipoli however there were over 18,000 Australian casualties in all.  Turkey, on the other hand, were fighting beside Russia and sent a huge contingent to protect the peninsular from the British Empire.  Over 57,000 Turkish men were killed with over 100,000 casualties.  These are some pretty daunting numbers in anyone’s books.

One of the many trenches

One of the many trenches

Visiting Gelibolu and the surrounding areas of ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine, The Nek (chilling) and all too many cemeteries was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.  There are no words to explain my emotions sitting on the beach and looking up at those ominous cliffs.  The enormity of what these boys were sent to do is astounding and although the campaign failed in its objective of knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war the actions of our brave soldiers gave us the Anzac legacy that we are so proud of today.

Daughter at Simpson's Grave

Daughter at Simpson’s Grave

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1934

Anzac Day

I can see why the people in Turkey give such high esteem to this man amongst men – I cannot imagine the British Prime Minister or even our own Australian Prime Minister ever being so gracious.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets.

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Why Are You Here?

Daughter has fallen victim to the dreaded Grip.  It sounds quite ominous doesn’t it?  It sounds as though we need to send out a bat signal or Spider Man needs to come to her rescue but in fact the Grip is better known as simply the flu.  Yes Daughter has the flu and a little ear infection so I took her to the village doctor for a check-up and perhaps some antibiotics if deemed necessary.

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The rest of this story is not about Daughter.  She has had a day off school and is on the mend.  The rest of this story is a bit of a tantrum by me so if you are not in the mood for my drama then close the page because here we go:

Imagine a doctor’s office or a government office or a bank or a post office or, well imagine bloody well near anywhere in Mersin.  Imagine me.  Imagine The Turk.  Imagine an obnoxious Turkish doctor, government official, office worker or man on the street.  And.  Action!

“Yes we moved here from Sydney, Australia.”                                                                “Sydney, Australia?  Why would you come here?  There is nothing here.”              “We came here to give Daughter a family and for her to learn Turkish.”            “You have made a mistake.  You should go back to where you are from.”

This is the conversation that The Turk and I have had about 100 times since arriving in Mersin.  The confusion and hysteria that we imbibe from the everyday man when we say that we live here makes me want to throw something at them.  I find that it is usually the professional Turk that cannot understand our decision to move here the ones who think that they are smarter than we are.  The Doctor or Government official.  I always roll my eyes and turn away while The Turk goes into the usual speech about family, lifestyle, culture, language, blah, blah, blah.

Frankly it is none of your effing business why we have moved to Mersin, just stamp the document or give me the prescription and we will be on our way.  Yes we have moved to a small village.  Yes it is extraordinary and yes you can think it is crazy but you need to try and look at it from our side.

We lived in Sydney and believe me I love Sydney.  Best city in the best country in the world but Mersin and more specifically the Village has one things that Sydney does not.  Aile (family).  A huge family that has been so very welcoming to me and to Daughter.  Kuzlener (cousins) that want to play with her.  Kuzlener that love her (and some that do not).  Teyzer and yenge (aunts) that give her hugs when she is sad and yell at her when she is naughty.  Amcalar (uncles) that slip her 5 lira or take her to the market for icecream and a Anne and Baba who are at home when she finishes school and can spend quality time with her rather than coming home exhausted and stressed from a day’s work.

I know that not everybody can have this opportunity, it is unique to us, but when Daughter was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata I realised that something had to change.  I realised that our lifestyle, running from pillar to post, was damaging her psychologically and if ever an opportunity for a seachange came up I would jump at the chance.  Yes we could have moved to Queensland or even to a small town in rural New South Wales but all that would have achieved is that we would have alienated ourselves even more.  Moving away from friends, no I do not think this would have been the solution.

Moving to Turkey has taken a big chunk of our savings and frankly has put us under a financial strain (The Turk and I are terrible with a budget) but Daughter is blossoming from a stressed little girl who had lost most of her hair into a wonderful young lady who is doing remarkably well at school even though it is in a second language and has made some great friends along the way.

This is the right decision for our family – for now.

When Animals Attack

I had my first run in with a scorpion early this morning.  At least I think it was a scorpion.  It certainly looked like one.  It might have been a mutant crab but I am going with my first choice which was scorpion. 

My Hurley Dog and I were walking along a rocky outcrop near the deniz when he started crazily barking in one spot.  Me being me and incredibly stupid gave the rocks a nudge (which on reflection is possibly not the best thing to do in a pair of thongs) and out popped this weird-ass looking mutant waving its nasty-ass looking tail stinger thingy and snap snappy claw thingys which makes me think it was a scorpion.  I jumped out of the way pretty quickly and it skedaddled in the opposite direction from the screaming Aussie and her half crazed Hurley Dog. 

I got home and reported my near death experience to The Turk who pointed out that within a week of arriving in Australia he was nearly bitten by a Red Belly Black Snake and had been bitten by more spiders, ticks, snakes and other various insects while living in Australia than he had in the 40 years of living in Turkey.  Furthermore he had been chased by an emu, kicked in the stomach by a wallaby, stung by a jellyfish and he was pretty sure that a drop bear was conspiring against him while at the koala park.  He said that if Steve Irwin wasn’t safe in Australia then nobody is safe in Australia so I need to stop whinging about one measely little scorpion – the one thing in Turkey that could (maybe) kill you! 

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I agree that The Turk copped a bit of a beating from the natives during his 12 years living in “Strayla” but does that mean that I am going to cop the equivalent while living here in Turkey?  Crikey!

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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).

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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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!

port stephens

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?”

ice hotel

*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.

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!