This Post Will Self-Destruct in 5, 4, 3, …

The year is almost over, and this funk I’ve been in, this fog, is finally lifting.  It’s almost incomprehensible that 2017 is taking its final breath and tomorrow will be the first day of another new year.  I guess I will wake tomorrow with the usual worries that affect us all – family, health, love, money, yada yada – but I am going to try to not let those little things send me spiralling into a depression abyss of no return.

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I think for the whole 2017 has been a bit of a shit-storm but I’ve already lost friends this year for voicing my opinion over various subjects so instead, I shall reflect on the year of that was and its effect on me personally.

I have met some wonderful new people (and a few nutters) this past year and, thanks to my high school reunion (which I did not attend as I happen to live 14,351km away, although was Facetimed into – and yet somehow still found myself spending an extraordinary amount of time gossiping about so and so in the toilets!), I also got to reconnect with people that I hadn’t spoken to since I unceremoniously left those not so hallowed halls many moons ago.

January was spent with Daughter in London where along with a butt-load of bacon being consumed I got to catch up with one of my dearest friends (I have been told I can no longer say ‘oldest friend’).  A special shout out to her for putting up with me through my tears (I was still recuperating from my knee surgery and a bit of a Negative Nelly during my visit), but it was wonderful to spend time with her and her family again.  I also travelled to my happy place, aka Australia, in June and spent desperately needed time with my family and friends there.  There was another quick trip to Bali where a lot of silliness ensued and I finished off my travels this year with a thumping good concert in Germany.

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On the writing front, I know I have been slack with my blogging and thank you all for regularly reminding me to get back to work but my general slackness was for a very good reason and that reason is *drumroll* I have finally completed the first draft of my novel (truth be told its probably my 20th draft but it is done either way).  I have sent it off to a few publishers but all that rejection is quite disheartening and it certainly taps into my already dark funk, however, I did get a little realistic feedback from a few of them which has bolstered my resolve to see my book one day get published.  Right now, it is being Beta-read (a new concept to me) for detailed feedback on plot, characters, clarity and pacing.  Shall I tell you the name?  Okay.  Here goes.  “Salep and Ginger”.  Yes, it is set in Turkey.  Yes, it is a romance and yes, it is kind of sexy, in fact, one editor suggested to me that perhaps there was a little too much sex (although no neckties were injured in the writing of this novel).  Anyway, that’s all I can say for now.  The whole thing is nerve-wracking, but the end result means I might get to publish my book.  Imagine that?  Me?  A published author!  But I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet.  Chill Janey!

This year also gave me the opportunity to visit places in Mersin that I hadn’t visited before.  A few highlights were visiting tiny villages in the Toros Mountains, exploring the monastery in Müt, peeing my pants in Kozan (maybe that wasn’t such a highlight) and even a visit to the ruins in Uzuncaburç (which I will get around to writing) as well as repeated trips to Kiz Kalesi and lazing the extended summer on practically deserted beaches.  I had become a lazy expat, not exploring the beauty that surrounds me.  I promise that 2018 will bring a lot more adventures in my adopted country.

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On the home front, The Turk and I still quarrel constantly.  We slam doors on each other and vow to divorce at the earliest opportunity, but we soldier on – because that’s just how we are.  Daughter is over both of us and it is clear that I have lost whatever parenting mojo I actually once had.   She no longer buys into any of my shite and is way too busy socialising to remember that The Turk and I actually exist (other than to open our wallets or to drive her to some very important event).  I guess I was the same at her age (and again I should be very thankful that she is growing up here where morals are imbued into these kids at a very young age) but I am hoping that 2018 will bring her a little more confidence in herself and help her strive to reach her goals (whatever they may be).

I won’t be making any New Year’s resolutions again this year, and I’m good with that.  I will try and be a little healthier, but I don’t really need resolve to do it.  I did buy a treadmill and I used it for a good few weeks before it started to collect dust (not true).  I am, however, putting My Evil Cat on a diet.  She is a binge-eater and, despite the fact that she now has only 3 teeth, she still has managed to put on weight.  Now that I think about it My Evil Cat and I are very similar ladies (although I do still have all my teeth) so perhaps we shall become diet buddies in 2018 (that won’t happen either).

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For those of you who read my very first post knows that I don’t love New Year’s Eve (in fact I also talk about it in my novel – Salep and Ginger – hopefully to be found in good bookstores just in time for summer – hello free advertising on my blog page) and the probability is very high that I won’t be going anywhere tonight.  I am good with that, but I do want to thank all of you for hanging around and reading JaneyinMersin.  It really does mean the world to me and to all of you I say this – no matter how shitty 2017 may have been, you survived it. Internet fist bump for you.

That’s me done for the year… there’s a glass of red calling my name soo Happy New Year and to 2018 I say this – bring it!

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Ho Ho Ho!

It’s just after midnight here in Mersin which means today is Christmas Eve.  Santa has already given me my Christmas present as on Wednesday I was given the all clear from the doctor and could get out of the house and frantically finish (read that as ‘start’) my Christmas shopping.

Thanks to social media I know that back home in Oz friends are indulging in some early celebrations with photos at packed beaches, parties on Sydney Harbour, leisurely lunches and generally having a merry old time.  They are frantically hitting the shops to buy their prawns and oysters, as well as mangoes and avocados all in readiness for their Christmas celebration whether it will be at the beach or by the pool or even a barbie in the backyard.  Ah Sydney – I can dream can’t I?

Christmas in Sydney

Here in Mersin, Christmas has been a pretty low key affair; in fact the last few years have been positively depressing.  On our actual first Christmas Day here I made a huge fuss and arranged a full Christmas lunch for the family with presents for everyone.  Unfortunately none of them came because, well, it was just Wednesday to them (plus most of them work and were unable to take a day off).  Having learned my lesson last year The Turk took Daughter and I out for lunch which was nice but not really special or Christmassy at all.

This year, however, I am excited at the prospect of Christmas Day as I have been invited to a friend’s house for lunch.  I am told, however, that calling tomorrow ‘Christmas lunch’ is not giving justice to the day or the meal for that matter.  This is no mere Christmas lunch; this will be a Christmas extravaganza.  There will be pork, and bacon (Eeekkk!).  There will be turkey (yes haha turkey in Turkey – hilarious).  There will be prawns.  There will be gravy and oodles of vegetables, and sugary biscuits and lots of Gluehwein.  There will be something called an Eton Mess and finally there will also be ox tongue (I’m not really sure what to say about that but it’s apparently a tradition).  This will not be a mere lunch either.  This is an all day, into the night and with the possibility of continuing into Boxing Day spectacular.  I am thinking of wearing my tracksuit pants as they are stretchy enough to sustain themselves throughout what will no doubt be a wonderful day full of great friends, lots of laughter and waaayyy too much food.

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To all of you who follow my ridiculous antics here in Mersin I say thank you and may all your Christmas wishes come true.

See you in 2016!  2016???  Crikey!

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December Shines

My thoughts today are very cruisey and I certainly don’t want to be cooped up indoors on such a glorious day so this post will be short and sweet.

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How’s your day faring?  Mine has, so far, been excellent.  Daughter is at school where she seems to be sitting a neverending run of exams, The Turk is taking the neighbour’s Rottweiler for a walk (because they keep him chained up all day long) and I find myself, yet again, on my terrace taking in the sunshine with My Kedi Cat.

I really should get off my bum and get a few things done, I haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet or finished buying presents.  There has been some discussion that I am, perhaps, a Christmas lightweight although I think that was made abundantly clear last weekend with my dismal failure to keep up at the Köln Christmas markets.

Alright.  Up and at ’em.  I have been eyeing off the pazı (chard) growing in the bahçe opposite and am thinking a little sarma is on the cards for tonight’s dinner.  Yum.

So whereever you are today and whatever it is that you are doing have a great one!

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Daughter’s Big Bang Theory

As my regular followers will no doubt recall Daughter has come to blows with the Din Öğretmeni (Religion Teacher) more than once regarding her religious beliefs so this following tale should not surprise many of you.

Yesterday in Din Daughter’s Öğretmen explained to the students that they should not put up “Noel” trees as it allows students to be influenced by consumerism brought into favour by western influences.  During the months of December and January students should concentrate on their scriptures and on learning about Allah.  One of Daughter’s friends piped up and said that Daughter had a Noel tree and Daughter said, “No I have a Christmas tree”.

The conversation went down a little like this:

Öğretmen:          Are you Catholic?

Daughter:            No.

Öğretmen:          Is your father?

Daughter:            No.  He is Muslim.

Öğretmen:          Is your mother?

Daughter:            (plainly being a pain in the ass) No.  She is a practicing Buddhist.

Well at that point the Öğretmen went bright red and Daughter was certain that she was going to have a conniption.  All around Daughter friends were giggling and Daughter was, of course, enjoying the limelight immensely.

Öğretmen:          Well what religion are you?

Daughter:            I don’t believe in one God.

Öğretmen:          (clearly bothered by this statement) What?

Daughter:            I do believe in a higher entity.  I do believe in good versus evil.  I don’t believe that there is one right or wrong God or one right or wrong religion.

Öğretmen:          But who made you?

Daughter:            My Mum and Dad.

At this stage the class were laughing hysterically and the Öğretmen realises that they have moved from a Religious class to a Sex Ed class.

Öğretmen:          But who made the birds and the flowers and the trees?

Daughter:            It all started with the Big Bang – BANG!

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The Turk has been called up to the school this morning.  He is wishing he stayed in Australia right now.  I am glad I am not going as I find the whole thing hilarious!

BANG!

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Festival of Sweets

The month long fast of Ramazan concludes with a three day national holday of Ramazan Bayrami (Arabic – Eid al-Fitr) and is one of the Islamic calendar’s major holidays.  This three day holiday is full of family time, fun and food! 

Ramazan Bayrami is, of course, a religious celebration.  It is a festival to restore oneself after the fasting and growth of Ramazan.  It is also called Seker Bayrami (Festival of Sweets) and the number one thing that I have learnt is to have sweets on hand.  Lots and lots of sweets.  This is to fulfil the tradition of children going around the neighbourhood wishing people a happy bayram.  As a reward they receive a sweet, a lolly or even a coin. seker

We too would visit family members and in particular the older generation.  We kiss their hand and place it on our forehead as is custom to show respect.  We greet them with “Bayrammiz Kutlu”.  We also take time to visit those who are deceased and visit the cemetery as a sign of respect.

As it is a national holiday everyone in the family has been at home which means we have had a lot of BBQ’s and outings as a group.  These few days reminds me of how Christians would celebrate Christmas and I must say that Seker Bayrami is definitely high on my list of excellent fun in Turkey. 

Be aware that during any national holiday most shops, banks and government offices are closed and leading up to Bayram the shopping centres and banks are overflowing with people stocking up on everything they will need over the coming festival days.  There is also a lot of people on the roads with family members travelling great distances to visit loved ones.  Intercity buses are packed and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).  

Being Scrooged

Today is Wednesday.  To many of you it is Christmas Day but here it is just Wednesday.  Daughter has been negotiating with The Turk all week to have the day off school and last night, finally, The Turk gave in.  No school on Christmas Day (sorry I mean Wednesday).

I woke up this morning (Wednesday) feeling grumpy.  This was my first Christmas away from Australia, away from my ancestral roots but, of course, I have had many Wednesday’s away from Australia so if I keep thinking about it that way it’s not so bad.  I intended today to be a day of wallowing in my grief, to lie on the couch and watch Christmas movies (having downloaded a plethora of choices for wallowing from Home Alone and Love Actually to It’s a Wonderful Life (“Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”) however when I got up this morning the sky was the most glorious pembe (pink) and that glorious colour made it virtually impossible for me to wallow when the universe has been so good to me.

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Sure maybe there is no Christmas ham but today is Wednesday so perhaps I can make lamachun.

There are no Christmas carols but today is Wednesday and the ezan (Call to Prayer) will still summon the Muslim faithful 6 times a day.  A hauntingly beautiful sound that has become my alarm clock, so to speak.  I need to be up at 5:42 to get Daughter ready for school.  The 1:12 ezan reminds me to prepare lunch and the 5:07 means I can open a bottle of wine (although mildly inappropriate).  The 8:21 ezan is my Hurley Dog’s reminder for a quick walk before bed (yes he hears it and runs to the door).  The 10:08 tells me to get ready for bed and if I am awake at 3:38 it is like a lullaby to my ears I when hear the chant.

I may not be able to swim down at Manly Beach after a family Christmas banquet or go for a dip in the neighbour’s pool after a delicious BBQ but today is Wednesday so Daughter and I will go and spend some time with her Grandmother before taking my Hurley Dog for a walk through the village (maybe stopping by the butcher for a nice juicy Wednesday bone).  Today is a ‘balmy’ 17 degrees and although there has been a fresh fall of snow on the mountains behind us it is still rather pleasant for the middle of winter.

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So perhaps some might say I am being Scrooged by not having a Christmas celebration but do I miss the traffic on Christmas morning?  No.  Do I miss the potential for family drama?  Not at all.  Do I miss the commercialism of Christmas?  Bah humbug I say!  So what am I missing out on?  I’ve got The Turk and I’ve got Daughter.  I’ve got my Hurley Dog and my Kedi Cat and a bucket load of Turkish family.  Is not every day Christmas Day?

And yes as you can see Daughter did get to open a couple of little presents – even if my Hurley Dog tried to open them himself.

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So to my family and friends around the world have a wonderful day (Wednesday) and a Merry Christmas.  Enjoy the ham.

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The Little Things

Since moving to Turkey and more particularly moving to Karaduvar I (along with Daughter) am learning to appreciate the simple way of life and to, perhaps, disparage what we had and how we lived in Australia.  I have learnt to not complain about things that are not perfect and instead focus on the good things that we do have (unless you refer to those neighbours in which case – watch out!).

Living in Australia Daughter was always on the lookout for something new.  Shopping was a weekly event and clothes, computer games or gadgets were expected.  I was exactly the same.  Like mother, like daughter.  I used to sneak my purchases into the house so The Turk would not have a conniption, funny thing though – he would always find it no matter how well I hid things.  Bags hidden under the bed – he would find it.  Bags hidden in the garage – he would find them.  Hell he was like one of those dogs at the airport sniffing out contraband!  I could never hide anything from him and despite his terrible ability to read English he could read the credit card statement!

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Here in Karaduvar it is a little different.  Firstly we do not have two disposable incomes.  We must live on a budget and admittedly we are not doing a very good job of that.  We now need to be a little more stringent with our spending habits and that . . . well that definitely takes some getting used to!

The other reason Karaduvar is different is that our friends and neighbours do not have disposable incomes.  They work extremely hard and long hours to put food on their table and to ensure that their family and those around them are warm and happy.  I watch women arrive at the bache (farm) across the street before the sun has risen and they will work all day for approximately 30TL (AUD$15.00).   These women then return to their own homes and cook dinner for their family and, after the family have had their fill they will clean their homes until they shine.  If their neighbour needs anything they will give them theirs no questions asked even if this means they will go without. There is no jealousy, there is just caring and friendship.  Is this not what life should be about?

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I have begun to realise that I do not need all the material things that seemed necessary at home.  I look out my window where Daughter is playing with her cousins on the street with Hurley running after them.  I recall how her entire class came to check on her recently when she had a day off from school.  This would have never happened back in Sydney.

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I think our little family will be happier here with a simpler lifestyle.  Look at me – I am growing!    Who would have thunk it!

Feeling Inspiration

We lost the internet for a couple of days – 4 days to be precise.  It amazes me how much time I waste sitting on my laptop aimlessly clicking on pages.  It numbs the mind.  It stops you for achieving what you intended to do so for the past few days I have actually achieved quite a lot.

I have been in a bit of a bubble since I have arrived here – it has been more than three months.  Did you know that?  Yep we have been here on the other side of the world on the crazy train for over three months now.  Things are different.  It is not the same.  New home.  New language.  New food.  New faces.  New life. 

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Daughter has started a new school, The Turk is finding it difficult to settle and I am the paste that holds this family together.  But yes three months of living in this rural village in Turkey.

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I have not made friends.  I have family – yes.  I have social interaction.  There is my sister in law Songul who is possibly the sweetest person you could ever meet.  I have laughed with her on a good day and have cried with her on a bad one.  I have a mother in law that is kind and generous – not everyone is as lucky as I am.  There is my brother in law Umit who has helped me wade through the bureaucracy that is the Turkish Government and helped me obtain my Yabancilara Mahsus Ikamet Tezkeresi (Residence Permit for Foreigners).  There are people in the village that always say hello or Merhaba and ask me in for cay but friends?  Well not really.  So last week I reached out to a couple of ladies who live in Mersin and are in a similar situation as I am. 

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A plan was hatched.  A date of set and a destination was decided upon.  Saturday morning came and I left the house quite early, firstly to ensure that I arrived at the destination (Starbucks) on time but also so I could do a little sneaky Christmas shopping on the side.  I never drink coffee, never have, but Starbucks is known the world over so where better a place to meet people – and meet people I did.  It was with pleasure and a lot of joy that I met Alannah and Melis.  Alannah is from Northern Ireland and works as an English teacher and Melis is a beautiful German lady (of Turkish decent) who is married to a local fellow.  We fell into conversation easy – there was no lull which I think showed the genuine friendship that was being formed.  Time flew quickly and then it was late afternoon – I could not miss my dolmuş (shared taxi) home. 

After being revitalised by these ladies (how I have missed having a chat) I rushed off to catch my first dolmuş.  One of the things I love about Turkey is the dolmuş.  Dolmuş means “apparently stuffed” and most of the time they are.  You climb aboard and hang on for the ride.  In Mersin the dolmuş all have a set route and as long as you are on the route you can wave them down as they pass.  No walking to the closest bus stop for us here just put out your hand and they will come.  The driving is usually excellent, well as long as you do not mind that your driver is smoking, or talking on his mobile, yelling at a customer, counting out change, swerving recklessly though traffic, dodging people on the road or generally disobeying every traffic road rule known to man.  A marvellous way to get around. 

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As I arrived in Atas it was quite clear that I was going to have to walk home as this small industrial area (where I connect to a dolmuş to Karaduvar) was quiet.  All the businesses were closed and there was not a soul to be seen after all it was cold, very foggy and in the dark Atas is a little bit intimidating.  I had started trudging down the dark street, slightly nervous, when I realised that I was being followed.  Crap!  Danger!  I walk a little faster (difficult in the boots I was wearing).  The footsteps behind me kept pace.  Buggar.  I glanced over my shoulder but it was too dark and too foggy to make out a figure.  Where is the bloody dolmuş when you need one?  Now I could hear breathing, wait, no.  It is panting.  I stop and spin around to find a large dog sliding to a halt behind me.  The big black dog looked at me quizzically, “Woof.  Why did you stop?  I was enjoying our walk.  Are we not going to your house where you will feed me?” he seemed to ask.  As I am more scared of the kopeks (dogs) than the people I was thankful that a dolmuş came along and I jumped on arriving home only slightly later than anticipated . . . however . . . The Turk had been waiting and was worried (everyone now goes “Awwwww”).  Yes he had stopped a few dolmuş.  He had let his family know I was missing, possibly dead and had his cousins searching the streets for me.  I jumped off the dolmuş oblivious to his concern and saw him standing, waiting for me. 

“Where have you been?”

“With friends.”  I like to be a bit vague, make him worry a bit (not realising that he had sent out the cavalry looking for me).

“It’s late.”

“No probs.  I’m here.”  Realising there was something afoot I asked, “You ok?”

“No,” he yelled, “I’ve been waiting for you.  I was worried.”

Again – awwwwww.

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Anyway back to the lack of internet.  Yes I had no internet for four days and it sucked.  I had no internet.  No electricity on Saturday night or all day Sunday and no telephone until Monday.  I have decided that I could disappear of the face of the earth and no one would know – well not until people realised I had not blogged for a while anyway.

But having no internet meant I did get other things done.  I made soup – oh my most exciting news (how sad do I sound – this should NOT be my most exciting news).  I found butternut pumpkin and made a delicious pumpkin and ginger corba (soup).  The Turk’s family have never had pumpkin soup before so I was inundated with people trialling my concoction.  I think it was good.  Daughter says it was good (although a little peppery).  The Turk’s family made lots of noises and said lots of things.  I am not really sure what they said but I am going with the fact that they thought it was delicious.  Wonderful.  Best corba ever!  Cok guzel!

My other news is that as many of my personal friends know I do love to write.  I have started and discarded many novels over the years.  With no internet, Daughter at school and The Turk going off with his brother to deliver maydanoz (parsley) to the restaurants I was taking my Hurley Dog for a walk and was inspired.  Not JK Rowling, become a billionaire inspired but inspired enough to open the laptop and type.

This is a good thing. 

This is what I want to do.

It has begun.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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