The Mother Clucker

Some people just like to ruffle feathers.  I get that.  Not me though.  I’m definitely a “keep it cool” kind of gal but every once in a while I am pushed just that little bit too far and then BAM! feathers are flying like there is a fox running amock in the henhouse.  When these BAM! moments do happen I believe they are moments that should be captured for future generations to study and enjoy (even if I do say so myself)!

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We recently changed Daughter’s school from the local village school to a private school in Mersin.  Although not the point of this story but changing schools in itself has caused a plethora of problems for us starting with the fact that Daughter now has a kimlik and her original yabancı number can no longer be used when dealing with Government departments.  Seems simple enough eh?  In fact shouldn’t it be an automatic update?  Perhaps, but it is Türkiye so it did prove to be three times more difficult that it needs be.  The Turk has spent the past two weeks getting her ID number changed which encompassed 2 trips to the village school, 4 trips to the özel school, 3 trips to the Nufus and one set of paperwork to Ankara!  And even today Daughter’s information is still wrong as it still shows that she has been absent for the first 10 days of school!  Ugh!

But that is not the BAM! moment.  This is the BAM! moment.

I went to a Parent/Teacher Meet and Greet recently at the new school.  This means that all the parents sit at his or her child’s desks and each teacher comes into the room and spends 10 minutes introducing themselves and giving us a little bit of information about their lesson plans before we have a mingle and introduce ourselves.  Seems pretty simple right?

Wrong!

And let me tell you why it is not simple.  Let me tell you why these things always end in tears, or with a head on a stick.  It is because of that one particular parent and it doesnt matter whether you are living in Sydney or Mersin, there is always that one particular parent that sends you closer to the edge than you have ever been before.  That one particular parent that is now and shall be forevermore known as – The Mother Clucker.

The Mother Clucker is usually female and can be easily spotted when you enter a room.  She will be that one parent smiling brightly at the teacher from prime position, pen in hand ready to make notes.  There are different levels of Mother Cluckers too.  There is a lower level Mother Clucker who has not yet found her wings (so to speak) but what you really need to be fearful of is the top tier Mother Clucker.  These Mother Cluckers will have already made copious notes to discuss with each and every teacher and even before the Meet and Greet begins she can be heard cluck, cluck, clucking her important opinions to gain support from anyone who glances sideways at her.  She will, of course, volunteer to be the Class Parent and she will, no doubt, want to discuss every insignificant detail because even the little things are important too.

This year’s Mother Clucker was, once upon a time, a school teacher so obviously she knows how things should be done.  She has an opinion on every single subject and she wants her voice heard, in both Türkçe and English.  Cluck.  Cluck.  Cluck.  So what should have been a 1 hour Meet and Greet became a 2½ hour battle of wits between this obnoxious, know it all, top tier Mother Clucker and the poor teachers who, one at a time, were put through their paces, whether they wanted to be or not.

I sat throughout most of the cluck, cluck, clucking quietly.  A lot of it was in Türkçe so I was oblivious to her clucking but every now and then she would speak in English (teacher dependent), to show off her language skills no less.  I laughed once at the look on the poor Music teacher’s face when the Mother Clucker explained that her child did not want to play the particular instrument that he was assigned (well either does my kid lady but shut the feck up!).  I rolled my eyes when she wanted to discuss how Din (religious studies) should be taught (Daughter will no doubt dramatically fail that subject again this year too) but I had to step up when she started having an opinion on how English should be taught.

Here’s how it went down –

Mother Clucker:  You need to teach the children songs.  Like Old Mcdonald Had a Farm.  I was taught Old McDonald Had a Farm.

Me:  (Cackle)

English Teacher:  (American accent) We have a great program laid out but no I do not think that is the way to go.  Children today do not relate to that type of teaching.

Me:  Seriously?  Old Mcdonald?  You’d be better off teaching them Beyonce!

(Every single set of eyes are turned towards me)

Mother Clucker:  Ah, you must be Daughter’s mother.

Me:  (Nodding).

Mother Clucker:  (the underlining does not quite put enough emphasis on Mother Clucker’s true tone of bitchy but just go with it) Your Daughter obviously knows English.  You should sit outside.  Your opinion is not valid.

Me:  Sit outside?  You didn’t sit outside when the Turkish teacher was speaking and honestly I’d much rather be sitting at home but I can’t because you won’t SHUT UP!

Like I said I’m definitely a keep it cool kind of gal.  Aren’t I?  Hello?  HELLO???

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School Concert

The elementary school across the street had their end of year concert last night.  The concert was actually supposed to take place a week ago however it was cancelled due to a man being stabbed behind the school who subsequently died.  I guess that would make it a murder.  Yep there was a murder across the street so the concert was cancelled as the school (and no doubt the Polis) were concerned that there would be retaliation (as the two boys charged were Kurdish not Turkish).

I have never really experienced any discrimination in my life.  Women have always had rights and there was never really any racial slurring while I was growing up so for me witnessing the anger and blame being placed firmly on a group of people is a new and honestly, slightly terrifying, experience.  The history between the Turkish people and the Kurdish is lengthy and full of acrimony on both sides.  For me I watch the behaviour of levelheaded men in the village become completely irrational calling for the blood of the two boys who were charged with the murder.  I understand from The Turk that Polis attended at the funeral each day to keep everyone in order and to ensure that there was no vigilante justice against the two boys who were charged since they were juveniles and were released on bail.

Surrounded by all this acrimony it was good to see the school press forward with the end of year concert once the mourning period had ended.  Like schools all around the world the concert is a chance for the kids to show off their dancing skills and for raising some much needed funds for the next school year.  The concert itself was a mix of modern music (and by modern I mean the Grease Mega-mix) as well as some traditional Turkish music.  Living across the road from the school I have watched the youngsters practicing their dance steps for months, literally months.  If I have to hear the Grease Mega-mix again I may throw myself off the balcony.  My sister in law laughed and told me they do the same dances every year so no doubt I will be listening to it again over and over next year.

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There was a lot of choice for food with stalls including Gozleme, Icel Kofte and Tantuni.  I particularly like the fact that the Gozleme vendors set up cooking on the floor in the school hallway.  You don’t see that every day for sure.

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A raffle was also drawn with the winners getting a bike.  This was a big drawcard and I understand the school and raised enough money to purchase a new computer and perhaps even to give the school a fresh coat of paint over the three month break.

A fun night was had by all as shown here by Daughter who decided to try her hand at the traditional dancing.  Perhaps not.

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Introducing The Turk

He is part adult, part baby.  He is emotional, overly emotional, passionately emotional.  He can be selfish.  He is stubborn.  He smokes.  He drinks too much.  He is a terrible driver.  He is argumentative.  He is dedicated to his family – too much so.  His crazy antics are the reason why the grey hairs on my now blonde head appear more often than they ought.  Only him.

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On a good day he is an acceptable human being.  He likes to clean.  He likes to cook.  He likes me.  On a good day.

On a bad day it is clear that I have upset the Gods and they have sent this demon monster to me as punishment for my wrongdoing.  My mother in law had a ‘whacking stick’ that she used on the stray cats if they made their way a little too close to the front door of her house.  I had also seen her use her ‘whacking stick’ on both The Turk and his brothers more than one.  I have decided I need a ‘whacking stick’.  I will keep it next to the front door where I keep the slippers for visitors.  If The Turk gets a little out of control I can grab my ‘whacking stick’ and wield it around like a big ass shiny sword.

In case you are wondering my Dad actually did like The Turk.  Not at first.  Not when you get his only daughter “knocked up” but he came around eventually.  He didn’t love him but he liked him all the same.  He said we were “well matched” and “both as ridiculous as each other”.  There you have it.

Daughter has another ear infection.  Her own fault.  She runs around in mid riff tops and cut off shorts most of the time and she will not take the medicine prescribed by the Doctor.  Last night she was very, very sick.  Ear aches.  Stomach aches.  You name it, she was suffering from it.  The Turk aka the most childish, spoilt, overly emotional pain in my ass that every existed spent the night sitting next to Daughter’s bed.  If the blankets were pushed off he put them back on.  Is it too hot?  He adjusted the air con (incidentally it is too bloody hot).  When she woke uneasily after a disjointed dream he shushed her back to sleep.  He offered to sing to her at one point but I heard her shout “NO”, we only need one rock star in the family after all.

I still need a whacking stick but perhaps I will not need to use one today.  Not today.

Moving to Mersin?

I get an incredible amount of emails from people thinking of moving to Mersin or Icel.  Apart from shaking my head in bewilderment at the idea (just joking.  I love it here … sometimes) living in Mersin or even living in Turkey offers you a good quality of life in a cultural hybrid of East and West.  It has its history, dramatic geography and frankly in Mersin it has pretty good weather virtually all year round.

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I usually write lengthy replies about the do’s and do not’s that I have experienced firsthand living in Mersin.  I think I’ve got my reply down to a fine art, with some slight modification as the need arises.  So what are my “do’s and do nots” for moving to Mersin?

DO think about your decision.

Why are you coming to Mersin?  Is it for adventure?  Is it for love?  Is it for money?  Moving to the other side of the world or even the other side of the State is a huge decision.  So many factors.  Short term or forever?  Rent/sell your home.  Give up your lease.  Pack your whole life into boxes.  Storage or cargo?  Pets?  Bring them or adopt them out?  (I obviously brought my two fur-babies with me and frankly could not of even imagined this move without them).  Kids?  Bring them or adopt them out?  I am just joking.  Seriously I am.  Remember though there are no hurdles too high.

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DO your research.

What area do you want to live?  Mezitli?  Pozcu?  Carsi?  Mersin is a large city and Icel is even larger (which includes Erdemli, Silifki, Anamur through to Tarsus).  There is a lot of choice.  Kiralama daire (renting an apartment) in the city of Mersin is quite cheap compared to many cities throughout Türkiye.  Do inspect before you sign anything as the quality may not be as high as you would be used to and check what outgoings are included.  Also remember that it is normal for you to purchase your own appliances (yes including your stove) and even light fittings.

What school okul do you want your children to go to?  There are some great özel okul (private schools) in Icel but they are hugely expensive so factor that cost in and mostly they will teach in Türk.  Originally we chose to put Daughter in a village school to give her an opportunity to learn the language by immersing herself in it.  The teachers at the village school were incredibly helpful.  I could not fault them at all and the children were incredibly generous and welcoming.  Daughter even had a nemesis which is, in her opinion, the ultimate show of acceptance.  After two years of learning Türk we moved her to an özel okul which gave us an entirely new set of challenges to overcome.

Where will you be working?  Are you allowed to work?  This is, of course, visa dependent.  Do not attempt to work without a visa.  It will bite you in the ass.  There is a desperate need for English speaking teachers in Mersin along with German and French.  English teachers seem to earn a good living so it can be quite lucrative if you have the right credentials.

DO get the right visa.

You will no doubt be scratching your head with the paperwork, fees, requirements and general stroke inducing migraines that a brought on while traversing the myriad of obtaining the correct visa.  There are different types of visas, short term (tourism), student visa and employment visa.  An employment visa will only be issued if you have a signed job contract and a work permit issued by Çalışma ve Sosyal Güvenlik Bakanlığı (Ministry of Labour and Social Security).  This application must be done in your country of residence.

You will also need a residence permit which must be applied for within 30 days of arrival.  This is issued from the Emniyet Müdürlüğü Yabancılar Şubesi Foreigner’s Division/Alien’s Branch of the Local Police Department and as I mentioned in a previous post entering this place is like entering Mordor.

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There is a lot of supporting documentation required as well so be prepared.  For example – proof of your financial situation, copies of rental agreements or ownership of your own property and (in my case) proof of marriage.  Do yourselves a favour and photocopy all your documents at least 10 times, more if you can.  Also ensure that all documents are translated into Turkish.  Do not believe the person on the street (or on this blog or that blog), you need everything translated into Turkish.  Birth Certificate – translate it.  Marriage Certificate – translate it.  If your child is to go to school you need a document from the school confirming enrolment stamped by the Turkish Consulate in your home country and then translated into Turkish.  Incidentally it was cheaper for us to translate here in Mersin at a Noter rather than back in Sydney.  Finally passport photos.  You have some?  Get more!

DO make friends – with both expats and locals.

I know, I know I do not always take my own advice but I did talk to an amazing amount of people before I moved here on various expat sites.  These guys are already living in Mersin or in Turkey and they will prepare you for the bumps in the road (there will be bumps, sinkholes and even a few bottomless pits before you begin to feel at home here).  Living here is a great experience but it’s not always easy being an immigrant.

DO learn the language.

I wish I had.  I blame The Turk.  Of course now I find myself without the benefit of language.  Paying a bill.  Difficult!  Shopping?  Difficult!  Doctor?  Dentist?  Government office?  Difficult!  Difficult! Difficult!!!  Do a course.  Try Babbel.  Do something so you are not drowning in the deep end.  Mersin is not particularly expat friendly so any attempt to speak the native language will put you in good stead with your landlord or employer or even that bored Government employee.

DO it.  Just do it!

As for the Do not’s I only have one –

DO NOT live with regret.

Oh wait one other piece of advice that will change your life – bring mosquito repellent!  It does not matter how much you have or what brand you have, bring more!  The mosquito’s here are the most desperate bloody suckers you will ever come across.  They may not sparkle in sunlight but they are lethal from dusk to dawn!

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Good as Gold

When I was pregnant with Daughter I attended at the local free hospital in Mersin for some blood work and a check up.  It was a dark, extremely dirty hospital where lines of people waited in various stages of injury or sickness.  I could not compare this hospital to anything I had ever experienced and I was so traumatized by the visit I left the country.  Yes I literally returned to Australia to have Daughter determined to never return to a Turkish hospital again.

Those who know me know my love of self-diagnosing ailments and self-medicating.  I hurt my back last week in the garden (I am getting old) and went upstairs to look through my various pills to find something to take away the ache.  As I rummaged through the plastic bottles and packages, some purchased here and others brought with us from Australia, I found some of The Turk’s pain medication that he used after an operation a year or so back.  Strong pain relief.  Still in date.  Let’s do it!  I took two pills and promptly passed out.  They were crazy strong.  I learned a valuable lesson that day.  Always be sitting down when self-medicating.  Nooooo! 

I did need to go to the doctor though has I had run out of my blood pressure tablets.  Again terror ran through my veins at the thought of going to a Turkish hospital but it had to be done.  Thankfully The Turk chose a ozel hastanasi (private hospital) which was not quite as frightening as my first foray into Turkish hospitals nor my most recent attendance at the local village hospital (another story in itself).  The doctor spoke English which was a bonus and happily told me my blood pressure was spot on.  Yah me!  The doctor also gave me a speech about “White Coat Syndrome”.  I laughed and told him every doctor I have ever met has given me the same speech.  The Turk mentioned me passing out to the Doctor who suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t self-medicate.  Seems like a good idea. 

Now it was Daughter’s turn.  In Australia I would take Daughter to the dentist every three months.  She would have a cleaning and a check-up.  It’s called preventative dental care people.  Preventative dental care.  Daughter has been complaining about a tooth for a couple of weeks and finally after my constant hounding The Turk arranged an appointment for yesterday afternoon.  Oh.  My.  God!

We walked into the dental hospital and I knew immediately that this was a mistake.  The building was dilapidated, not old actually dilapidated.  No paint, holes in the walls, dirty floors.  This is not what a dental hospital should look like.  There must have been 200 people waiting to be seen.  Daughter clung to me and whispered that she would probably end up with a highly contagious disease and started sprouting off various diseases that can be transmitted by unclean instruments.  I smiled and told her to relax but to be honest she was absolutely right. 

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On the bright side and despite the sheer volume of people there our appointment was on time.  Daughter entered the consultation room.  The Turk tried to come with her but was told to wait outside.  Less than one minute later the door opened and Daughter emerged.  What happened?

“She asked me to open my mouth.  I did.  She looked in and said there was nothing wrong with me.  She told me I was wasting her time.  So I left.”

No instruments.  No nothing just as cursory examination before sending her on her way.  The Turk blew a gasket at the doctor and she told him that you don’t come to a dentist unless you are in pain.  She said it was unnecessary to do a cleaning.  The doctor then suggested that if Daughter’s teeth seemed unclean we should buy a toothbrush.  Such an excellent suggestion!  Capital idea!  The Turk ushered Daughter out the door and threw some expletives at the doctor as we went.

But he made it up to her.  When she came home from school today he told her to get changed and meet him downstairs.

After spending a moment being loved up by Stanley and his sore leg she ran downstairs to find – a new bike!

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When The Turk asked Daughter how she was her reply to him was, “Good as gold Dad.  Good as gold!”

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Five things in Istanbul

Daughter was five the first time I took her to Istanbul.  Usually we would travel straight through to Adana but as she was a little older it was time to explore her second (now first) home.  I have mentioned to you before that when Daughter and I travel together it is her job to find us 5 things to do together and 3 of them have to be free or a minimal cost.  This encouraged Daughter to want to learn about each city we visited and to have a better appreciation at each location.  It always worked beautifully with her and even now she utilises this skill regularly to learn more about a place or thing.

Daughter’s list of five things to do in Istanbul:

Basilica Cistern  

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This is always number 1 on our list and each year this still is our first stop in Istanbul.  Why?  It is an extraordinary underground water cistern containing 300 plus marble columns to keep the ceiling up.  It’s atmosphere is made more unique with “creepy” lighting, the occasional surprise of really cold water dripping from the vaulted ceiling and ghostly shadows this place is mysterious enough for Daughter to be enamoured with exploring every inch.  Hint: Each time we go there Daughter has to re-discover the Medusa Head in the north eastern corner.  Throw a coin and make a wish.

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Grand Bazaar 

Daughter loves to shop.  Daughter loves souvenirs.  Daughter loves a brand.  And if Daughter can get a name brand without the name cost she will.  With hidden doorways and tiny exotic shops the Bazaar is a mini city in itself and getting lost in the labyrinth and chaos of the Bazaar is part of its charm, especially for kids.  Hint:  I make a visit to the Bazaar a scavenger hunt.  Deciding beforehand what “souvenir” Daughter wants she has to locate the treasure and barter with the shopkeepers.  Originally it was to practice her Turkish but now it is to bag a bargain!

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Constantine Walls

The walls were started by Emperor Constantine in 324AD and extended around the city to protect its people from invasion.  They were often attacked but when you are standing at the bottom looking up that these walls you wonder how on earth they were breached – and they were breached – notably by the Fourth Crusades and the Ottomans.   Start at Yedikule Fortress and you can walk for hours along or beside these gorgeous ancient walls.  Best of all – it’s free!  Hint:  There are so many other things to do along the way with parks, shopping and secret laneways.  Daughter would happily walk for hours and not complain (well not often anyway).

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Suleymaniye Mosque

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I clearly recall the first time I took Daughter here.  She was agog with its grandeur, its size   and its colour.  It was unlike anything she had seen before.  Entering the dome of the mosque she quietly watched the faithful at prayer – again so different to anything she had seen before.  After leaving the mosque we sat in the walled garden and talked about Islam giving her the opportunity to learn a little about their beliefs and lifestyle.  Hint: Returning home we purchased ceramic tiles and created our own masterpiece along the same styling as those seen at this iconic destination.

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Dolmabache Palace

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At 5 Daughter had dreams of becoming a princess and living in a palace and she insisted that we visit Topkapi Palace.  Unfortunately her idea of a palace did not coincide with what she viewed at Topkapi and we only ever visited the Palace that one time.  I did, however, take her to Dolmabache Palace the next day.  This was definitely a more romantic Palace and more to the liking of a 5 year old who expected grandeur and pomp.  Hint:  Viewing this Palace from the Bosphorus gives us an idea of its size and amazing architecture.  Cruising the Bosphorus is also another day trip in itself so give yourself lots of time.  At 11 Daughter’s interests have changed so Dolmabache Palace is no longer on our list.  This has been replaced with a trip down Istiklal Caddesi.  Why?  Shopping, of course.  Istiklal Caddesi is also great with its historic tram.  Don’t forget you need a card to ride it, they don’t accept cash.

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Bonus: Don’t miss the Whirling Dervishes at the Hocapasa Cultural Centre.  Daughter’s first experience watching that was enough to bring tears of laughter.  She was mesmerized and, upon returning to our hotel, tried as hard as she could to whirl and twirl but spent most of her time falling on her bum.

Children love to explore and to learn.  I think empowering your child to do the research gives them more appreciation and understanding of their surroundings.  Daughter is extremely lucky to travel to such destinations but if she does not learn about them, their history and their story, then there is no point in taking her there.  Frankly it would be a waste of my time and my money.

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Romeo and Juliet

I have got a good one for you today. It is a love story told so many times before, a family drama usually reserved for a Shakespearean play.  In fact I think homage to Shakespeare to begin suits:

Two households, both alike in dignity (or perhaps lack of dignity),
In dusty Mersin (I couldn’t say Verona), where we lay our scene,

And so on.

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This story is not about me.  It is about my brother in law Vito.  Again.  He obviously has a much more interesting life than I do.  I’m going to have to go back in time a bit so bear with me.

Twenty five odd years ago Vito fell in love.  Romeo and Juliet style.  She was a little bit older than him and was, perhaps, not quite suitable for marriage.  She had been married before and his family suggested to him that he wait until he can find a more appropriate wife.

“Noooo,” he cried, “I love only her.  I cannot, nay I will not live without her.”

Believing he would rather die than live without his love he threw himself into the middle of the road and lay there until such time as his family agreed to the marriage.

Remember I was not here when this happened and am merely repeating the story as it was told to me but yes he lay on that road until such time as his parents, my in-laws, gave in and allowed this ill-chosen marriage to go ahead.

Vito and his love (The Onion) married and had two boys in close succession.  The love was, as feared, no longer as strong as it once may have been.  She became distant with him.  His eyes started wandering to greener pastures, lots of greener pastures.  But they stayed together for the sake of the children.  Was his family right?  Should he have waited for a more suitable partner?  Does he think back to those days and to his parents and think, “Damn it I hate it when my parents are right!”  I always hated it when my parents were right.

The Onion never forgave his parents for their meddling (and I will call it meddling even though I cannot believe that my wonderful in-laws meddled and anyway is it meddling when they are right?) and she distanced Vito from his parents and the two boys from their grandparents.  Despite all of this she is the woman who wailed like a baby at my mother in law’s graveside in January (no doubt suffering from that unforgiving emotion called “guilt”) and yet had not spoken a civil word to her in years.  She is the woman who did not invite her mother in law to dinner or to family events and she is the woman who is, frankly, a bit of a bitch.

Fast forward to 2014.  Vito’s eldest son is a credit to the family.  He has completed his university degree with honours and will find himself with a successful career.  He is in love with a girl who is considered quite suitable by his family and they are to be married as soon as he has finished his army conscription.  He will forevermore be known as William which means, of course, that the younger son will be known as Harry.  Harry is, well I am going to say it, just like Vito.  A little bit of a larrikin, he enjoys a night out with the boys, loves the raki and loves to have a bit of fun with the ladies.  Harry has been courting a young girl (and at 17 she is very young).  He loves her.  She loves him.  Romeo and Juliet style.  He wants to be with her and she with him.  Unfortunately his family do not feel the same way and believe that she is unsuitable.

“Noooo,” he cried.  “I love only her.  I will not live without her.”

Sound familiar?

Yep we are living witness to a Groundhog Day, Shakespearean drama of epic proportions.  I wonder whether Vito and The Onion have sat down and thought, “Maybe we should learn from past mistakes.”  Or how about, “Let’s just let him live his own life, make his own decisions.”  I imagine I will be very opinionated when Daughter brings home a love.  I imagine I will hate him with murderous passion but I would like to think that I will let her make her own mistakes, sorry I mean decisions.

To finish this off it seems that the real answer is that the young lady in question does not like The Onion.  Well she must just be lovely.  I am sure I will have a lot in common with her.  I said to The Turk that he should encourage Harry to make his own decisions and follow his heart.  The Turk said I am a troublemaker.  I merely smiled.

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Contradictions (and a bit of a recap)

I wrote this a little over a week ago but due to some personal issues with my father in law as well as the current tensions in Turkey I felt it more appropriate to not post this at that time.  Turkey is in upheaval, yet again, and although tension is high I feel completely safe here in Mersin although there have been recent protests.  With elections looming all parties are throwing heated comments at each other and with the recent death of 15 year old Berkin Elvan it has become a travesty to bear witness to.

Officially it has been six months since we uprooted our lives and moved to Mersin.  Since I first met The Turk we would fantasise about moving to Turkey, whether it is for one year or forever but that fantasy was always put on the backburner as real life would interfere with our dream.  When my beautiful Dad passed away from that evil bastard that is cancer the dream of moving to Turkey was put back on the table but this time it was Daughter’s idea.  Having just lost her Granddad she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her other grandparents before they were taken from her too.  Her thoughts were, understandably, a little morbid but on reflection perfectly timed and we were all grateful to have had time with her grandmother, my mother in law, before she passed away in January.

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As an expat Turkey is a country of contradictions.  We live in a luxurious apartment with every modern convenience (just don’t mention toilet paper to me) but right next door my sister in law and her family make their bread over an open flame. Contradictions.

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We shop at Zara and TopShop, we get our coffee from Starbucks and we eat in nice restaurants.  We are surrounded by all our electronics to make life easier too from flat screen televisions, iPods and iPads meanwhile from my balcony I can watch the local women working on the farm across the lane for 30TL a day or witness children begging in the streets.  Contradictions.

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I smile at the faces of people around me.  These people are my family now but there are times I want to throw a brick at the shopkeepers who are so unhelpful as I am a yabanci or to the strangers who watch me as I walk by in my western clothes.  Yes I wear jeans and a t-shirt; no I am not a whore.  No I do not wear a head scarf; yes I have the utmost respect for your religion although I wonder do you have any respect for mine?  Before you ask, no I do not want to pay twice as much because I am a yabanci and just for the record I am not your ATM machine.  Contradictions.

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Adjustments were made by all of us over the past six months.  I think I have had it the easiest (well if you put aside the fact that I had no Turkish and now six months later I have little Turkish).  I had no expectations.  I know that things will not work the way that they did in Sydney and I was ready to accept this although I do get mighty peeved when the rubbish internet dies.  I think it has been The Turk who has had the most difficulty in adjusting – or should I say re-adjusting – to life in Turkey.  Having had the luxury of living in Sydney with its first world conveniences the littlest molehill can quickly escalate to the largest mountain.  I cannot tell you the number of times The Turk has said he wants to go back “home” to Sydney.  I guarantee before this day is over I will hear it yet again.  Cry me a river mate.

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Daughter is very content.  She has made some good friends, she has quickly learnt conversational Turkish (although apparently has a funny accent).  She is getting by at school and although she now has a nemesis she considers this means she is truly accepted by her class mates.  Her adjustments were mostly first world problems too.  Disappointments when things don’t go according to plan and realising just how damn lucky she is compared to so many.  Contradictions.

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Last Friday I had to return to the Emniyet yet again but I won’t bore you with that story today.  Anyway, while we were waiting to be interviewed I watched group after group of Syrian refugees lining up to speak to officials, to update their living arrangements or to ask for assistance.  I was shocked by the sheer volume of refugees coming through the door but The Turk has little sympathy for them.  I recently watched on the haber that there have been a few instances of racism against refugees in Turkey with most of Turkish society considering the refugees “temporary” in that they will return to their own country in due course.  There are in fact a few Syrian families that have settled into the village however The Turk does not interact with them in any way.  Recently a Syrian mother came to our door asking for a small donation and The Turk sent her on her way without a kurus.  Why?  What’s a few lira?  “If you give them an inch they will take a mile”.  His behaviour completely floored me firstly because he used one of my mother’s favourite sayings (a saying I have used on Daughter many, many times) and secondly because usually The Turk is the most generous person I know.  Contradictions.

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Turkey can be, and should be, extremely confronting, full of contradictions.  I have difficulties in accepting these contradictions at times and I guess this is a good thing.  I should never accept these differences.  I should ensure that Daughter never accepts these differences because once you have acceptance then you will never help change what is to come.

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The Puker

Daughter’s first overseas flight was when she was 10 weeks old.  We flew from Sydney to Bodrum so she could meet The Turk.  Daughter slept for the entire flight.  I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck.  Thankfully there was a lot of assistance from other passengers to get me from Point A to Point B otherwise I would still be wandering around Bangkok International Airport right now in tears (it’s a big airport).

On a whole, however, Daughter is one of those kids who always puked or always had a problem on a flight.  I know right?  I was generally mortified by her behaviour.  I know she couldn’t help it and I understand that, I really do, but it was just so damn embarrassing.  You name it, it has happened to us.  Lost luggage?  Check.  Missing connection flight?  Check.  Crying for 5 straight hours.  Check (and I am sorry).  Stomach aches, ear aches, head aches?  Check, check, check.

I’ve been on flights where they have separated me from my then 5 year old daughter and I even had one instance where Daughter’s name was called over the speaker.  Upon speaking with the attendant they were offering to upgrade her to Business Class!  Hello???

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The most infamous flight, the flight that I am sure the other poor souls who were unfortunate enough to be on that flight still comment on, went a little something like this:

  1. Half way through flight.  No problems.  Daughter feeling good.  Daughter feeling happy.  Me feeling relieved.
  2. Seat belt sign comes on.  Captain makes an announcement.  Turbulence.
  3. Daughter has finger up nose (she does enjoy a snack).
  4. Plane jars a little, finger is pushed into the roof of nose (possibly reached brain matter) and yep, you guessed it, a river of blood, a tidal wave of red terror gushed over us both.
  5. Daughter has a complete meltdown, starts choking.

Outcome?  Projectile blood pukage (is “pukage” a word) all over herself, me and . . the Canadian couple in the seats in front of us.  Dear God!

After vomiting for a straight 20 minutes Singapore Airlines refused to let us on our connecting flight (as we looked like extras from a Freddie Kruger movie) and so we spent the next 2 days at Changi International Airport waiting for another flight.  We missed the Anzac Day service at Gelibolu (that’s Gallipoli for you Aussies) and I said at that moment those words that I have said many, many times before, “I am never flying with her again”.

Yes, I have flown with her and yes, she has vomited since that flight.  Many times.

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Vito Corleone

A couple of weeks back The Turk and I had to make a trip to the okul (school) to have a chat with a bully on Daughter’s behalf.  He pulls her hair and pushes her around a little.  Generally if someone pushes her she will push straight back – no issue – but since she was diagnosed with alopecia areata the hair pulling freaks her out.  She is terrified that with one yank a large chunk of hair will fall out and then “I will have no option but to kill him” is muttered in a manner that, frankly, frightens me a little.

So before Daughter is charged with pre-meditated murder The Turk and I popped down to the school to have a chat with the young man in question.  As the bell rang Daughter’s classmates came out of the classroom and, if I gauged correctly, we were expected because they all surrounded us and pushed the boy into the centre of the circle.  He stood with his head down looking terrified while being surrounded by Daughter’s classmates all whispering to each other.  The Turk spoke to him quietly, assurances were given and the boy retreated down the stairs at breakneck speed.

Bittimi?  Finished?

Nope.

It seems that all we did was escalate the problem which came to a head yesterday with the boy in question smacking Daughter in the face.  So another trip to the okul this morning was deemed necessary.

The Turk and I went in ready for battle.  The headmaster was extremely helpful, took us to the classroom and called the boy in question out where he was berated, slapped across the back of the head with a ruler (!) and sent on his way.

Bittimi?  Finished?

Nope.

The Turk and I left the school feeling pretty comfortable that any issues can be put aside from that moment.  As we stepped out of the school gate The Turk’s brother appeared.  You may recall that this particular brother in law was the one who did not invite us (or my mother in law) to his son’s going away party and has had little to do with us since we arrived however now that The Turk is here he is as nice as cream puffs so I am going to refrain from bitching about him too much.  He is also the brother in law who is building a home attached to ours causing one of our windows to be bricked up but again I am going to refrain from bitching about him too much.  And just for a little bit more background information so you can truly judge his character he is the brother in law that runs a coffee shop / gambling house in the village.  Is it legal?  Bilmiyorum.  I just don’t know.  Basically he is a bit of a gangster in my eyes.

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Brother in law has heard about Daughter’s woes and decided that he should go and talk to the school as well just in case we were not forceful enough with our language.  I kid you not when I say he stepped out of the vehicle with his jacket over his shoulders, cigarette in hand, black hair slicked back.  He was a 1920’s gangster.  He was The Godfather.  I literally started laughing at this point as I realised he intended to go to the class room and push this poor kid around a bit (apparently you can do that kind of thing here).  Daughter was going to be mortified (or she was going to enjoy it a little too much).

The Turk and I stood outside the school waiting for either the polis to arrive and arrest him or us or Daughter or the poor boy.  Brother in law re-appeared at the school gates and said, “I have taken care of your problem”.  Yes he did say that!  He’s The Godfather!

When we arrived home I went about preparing Daughter’s lunch when brother in law telephoned and requested The Turk come to the coffee shop immediately.  It seems that brother in law contacted this poor boy’s father and the father was waiting in the back room to sit down with The Turk and his brother.  The Turk is down there now.  The last thing I said to him was, “Don’t rough him up too much”.

Oh shit!  I hope he knows I was joking.

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