Have a dose of what life is really like living here – from Turkish in 1000 easy lessons to learning the secrets to making the perfect kebab! Highs or lows this is our random observations from the melting pot of crazy that is my life in Mersin.
You guys might remember this post from March when my friends and I took a road trip up to Gülek Kalesi. That road trip turned out to be a complete disaster, and we ended up drenched, discouraged and downright depressed, but at least we made it out alive. Just to recap it was a little touch and go at times on the single-laned, pot-hole ridden track disguised as a road with its thick fog, sharp turns and blind bends that in my mind would have been more befitting Bolivia’s “road of death” than this little mountain outside of Pozantı.
We recently made a second attempt at visiting the Kalesi, travelling the same road up into the Tarsus Mountains. Thankfully we didn’t get lost, but we also didn’t recognise much of anything either.
Case in point:
After some accommodating locals pointed us in the right direction (and practised their English on us), we finally found ourselves at the top of the mountain and at the historical site of Gulek Kalesi.
As my friend Moe put it so succinctly, “this Byzantine, then Armenian, then Arab, then Ottoman and now tourist destination has sat on this mountaintop, casting a shadow on the village below for almost 2000 years. Yadda, yadda, we trip over that shit down here.”
I laughed so hard at this – but it’s all true.
We came for the photo, the famous ledge that hangs out over the mountain and looks straight down the otoban connecting Adana and Ankara. Sadly none our photos are as fabulous as those that are floating around on the internet, but the pride that we felt as we stood on that ledge was just as rewarding as if we had climbed Everest (and if felt like that at times as we traversed the craggy rocks to reach our destination).
We did it!
For those of you based in or around Mersin it’s totally worth the trip (about 20 minutes outside of Tarsus) but do yourselves a favour and do it is summer or check your weather apps because shit gets real up in them there hills when the weather turns bad.
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Daughter has made me vow to not use her for any of my future blog posts as it is an invasion of her privacy. Pfft!
So here’s a story about a person that lives in my home which for the sake of this post is called “She Who Shall Not Be Named”.
She Who Shall Not Be Named is now seventeen years old and living her best teenage life. You already know she is a well-established şımarık and brings along with her all the drama that a şımarık can bring. The never-ending phone calls and text messages that go ALL NIGHT LONG. Ding, ding, ding! The gossip. The chaos. *squeals*
Since we returned from Oz, she has been out socialising every single day – and night. Camping. Beach. Music Festivals. Nightclubbing. Vomiting in gutters. All the usual teenage stuff. It’s exhausting trying to keep track of her. Anyway, school goes back on Monday (thank feck), so I’ve said it’s time to rein back her activities, get home at a reasonable hour and prepare for the new school year.
Sooooo last night SWSNBN (I had to shorten it otherwise I’d be typing all fecking night) came home early at 8.30. Yah!! With her boyfriend! Sure, okay. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with the boyfriend visiting. My long-term boyfriend used to spend most of his nights on my parent’s sofa. He was never allowed to stay the night, but we got to hang out, watch videos on the old VHS player (how old am I anyway?) and have a pash when we thought my parents weren’t looking. Everyone was pretty happy with that arrangement.
Well, it all went to shit as my BIL, and SWSNBN’s umca Vito was dead-set having a melt-down when he spotted SWSNBN rock up at ours on the back of boyfriend’s motorbike and subsequently TOOK THE BOYFRIEND UPSTAIRS!!! He immediately reported it to the BossMan (the oldest BIL) who scurried over to our apartment.
“There is a guy in your apartment.”
“The Turk is not here.”
“Well he doesn’t live here so nope he’s not here.”
“Would you like me to stay?”
“Hell to the no!”
Have we gone through a time warp? Is it 1948 here in Mersin? Come on, folks! I’m sitting on the fecking sofa across from them while they watch Riverdale. Nothing hard-core happening here!
SWSNBN was mortified. The BF didn’t seem too fussed. I’m sure he’s seen this kind of behaviour before.
As Taylor Swift would say “You Need to Calm Down.”
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It’s been a while since I have mentioned my nemesis. Just to remind you my nemesis has reincarnated a few times over the years but has always taken the form of a rather large and loud cock-a-fecking-doodle-doing rooster.
There was the large red cock that terrorised My Hurley Dog so much that he refused to go into the yard for a good month. That red cock ended up as a fricassee. Then there was the big black cock (what am I writing?) who made it his personal mission to ensure I never slept more than two hours a night. Now I don’t know what happened to him but when he disappeared there was nothing left of him but some feathers and a beak. I’m guessing an alien abduction was the most likely cause of his demise. Then there was a cute little brown cock. He was a sweet-looking little guy but despite his tiny stature, he had a hell of a set of pipes on him! I swear you could hear him in the city. My BIL mangaled his ass and I must say he was delicious.
The owner of all of these reincarnated nemeses in their various forms, previously referred to as Crazy Eyes, had been rather quiet of late. I hadn’t seen her, or her mother or those five unruly boys (no doubt the reason for her crazy eyes), but last weekend she reappeared in a big way and worse still she brought with her yet another big black cock. She has gotten much smarter though. She knew we entered under the cover of darkness and Seal team 6’d her roosters so she has re-housed her new black cock and his six bitches onto the roof of her house. The fecking roof! Now, this new black-feathered evil dinosaur is even closer to my window.
My nemesis started this morning at 3:36AM. Precisely. He hopped to the end of his coop (read that as Crazy Eye’s roof), stared into my opened window and screamed at the top of his lungs “HEY, JANEY? ARE YOU AWAKE? JANEY? HUH? JANEY? WAKE UP! WAKE THE FECK UP!”. I swear to you this is no lie.
As he is now mere feet from my window I
immediately woke, moaned, cried a little, hugged My Hurley Dog and, when this
ugly ass cock-a-doodle-dummy kept this shit up for a straight forty-five
minutes I gave up on sleep and went and watched the news.
So I now have a mission (if I choose to accept it) and that mission is to find myself a big-ass rifle and, if I haven’t accidentally shot off my own head in the interim, I am going to sniper the shit out of that bastard cock-a-doodle-don’t!
I had a road rage incident here in Mersin a few months back. Full disclosure it was (kinda) my fault and I regret the whole incident but thankfully I lived to tell the tale to you guys now and, who knows, maybe my story will be a lesson on what not to do while on the roads here (or anywhere in the world these days for that matter).
Driving in Turkey can be a little *ahem* challenging at times but I can play Super Mario Kart as good as any nine year old so I feel I have the skills necessary to dodge bananas, shells or out of control turtles as I manoeuvre through the chaos of Mersin traffic.
So recently I was meeting a friend from Adana for lunch. Regrettably, we had chosen the weekend of the Portakal Festival which meant that everyone who had ever owned a car here in Mersin was out on the road and traffic was completely gridlocked. Neither of us minded too much as we weren’t in any great hurry, however and as usual, the impatient drivers of Mersin had all taken on their alter ego of Mario Andretti and believed that they were on the final straight at the Daytona 500.
Fast forward to 1 km from our destination… the train station in Çarşı and that’s when it happened.
We were stuck behind a car who was attempting to park on the busy road. Yes, the driver may not have had the best parking skills but as I said we weren’t in any great hurry so came to a stop behind him and waited. However, the wack job behind us in a banged-up white Fiat wasn’t as patient.
My reply (to myself mind you). “Dude, chill.”
Now (and mostly because my ears were actually bleeding at this point) I threw my hands up in the air very dramatically ensuring that the nut bar behind me could clearly see I was frustrated by his behaviour.
My reply (out loud but not out the window). “What the hell do you want me to do, ya bloody dickhead!”
It happened a third time.
I moved forward slightly to enable the hot rod enough space to nudge into the traffic beside us. He passed. Slowly. And I did the unthinkable… I gave him the finger!
Yep, I flipped him off. I showed him the bird. I gave him the highway salute.
Hindsight and all that I knew I shouldn’t do it but on very rare occasions my Aussie-ness explodes out, and I’m drinking beer, calling people “flamin’ galah’s” and, well, giving people the finger. In Australia it’s endearing. That’s how we Aussies say hello. I swear! Okay maybe not.
Anyhow… Mad Max came to a screeching halt about thirty metres ahead, and he jumped out of his car and raced towards us like Usain Bolt while being chased by two other car occupants who were attempting to tackle him to the ground.
“Holy shit!” said I.
“Oh my!” said my more eloquent friend.
I became my very own version of Mario Andretti and floored it, swerving through the traffic in an effort to get as far away from this wack-job as possible. And then it happened.
Dude threw himself at my car, like his whole body, flying through the air at the passenger side of the car! I didn’t stop. I looked through my rear vision mirror and watched him roll neatly into the gutter, dust himself off and immediately give chase again. There was no stopping him! He was the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Holy shit!
Thankfully we lost him in the chaos that is every day Çarşı, and I dropped my shaken but not stirred friend at the train station. I drove home in a state of panic to update The Turk who immediately took me and the car to the polis merkezi to report the incident and to obtain paperwork for the insurance claim on the body-sized dent in our front passenger door.
Unfortunately, the polis was not as helpful as we had hoped and informed me I had “antagonised” the other driver so nothing could be done, in fact he had the right to make a complaint against ME! They also gave me a warning about driver safety and road rage because if you piss someone off here, the other driver could pull out a gun/axe/knife/pitchfork and really go to town.
Being a sensible kind of Aussie and wanting to learn my lesson I did a little research on road rage around the world and do you know what? In a recent report commissioned in Belgium, it seems that 77% of Australians have been subject to an “obscene gesture while driving”. Crikey! I wonder how many of them were me???
In Turkey, authorities are at constant loggerheads about how to control the trafik canavari (traffic monster) and road rage that seems to be an everyday occurrence.
The moral of my story is to never, ever give anybody the finger; you never know what type of looney tunes is in the car behind you, or beside you, or in front of you.
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Gülek Kalesi is a small castle between Tarsus and Pozantı , an easy drive of approximately 90km from Mersin. Visiting the castle is not the main reason people visit this little known ruin. The main reason anyone visits Gülek Kalesi is for the photograph. I mean just look!
A little deli perhaps?
It was decided we should visit Gülek Kalesi as one of our friends was relocating to Istanbul and we wanted one final group photograph together. We were a merry bunch as we left Mersin behind on our drive to the castle. It might have been slightly overcast but it was surprisingly warm with patches of blue sky. Winter seemed to be behind us and we were ready for the long, never-ending, fire ant on crack, summer to begin. I will admit to you, dear friends, that the weather app that I check so vigilantly every morning “might” have suggested storms were imminent and, yes, there “might have been” in the distance, the very far distance mind you, some menacing looking clouds that could “possibly” be moving in our direction, but all in all a pleasant day was expected for our drive into the mountains.
Well, possibly turned into probably which turned into holy hell we were all going to die and by the time we reached the lower hills of the Tarsus Mountains it was bucketing down but we’re a resilient bunch and wouldn’t be put off by a little itsy rain. We were making memories and the photograph would probably be amazing with the natural light and slightly grey backdrop.
We thought of ourselves as valiant explorers and pushed on through the rain, then the sleet … then the snow (a real WTF moment considering it was March), yavaş yavaş ever higher up the mountain on a road that slowly disintegrated into nothing more than a muddy death trap with potholes the size of small cities, sharp turns and deadly cliffs on either side. The only other car on the road flashed his high beams as he sped down the mountain, away from the once in a lifetime storm (a slight exaggeration on my part). I bet he checked the news that night to see if there was any information about the car filled with yabancıların that had disappeared Amelia Earhart style never to be seen again.
We finally made it to the top of the mountain and we all tumbled out of the car to take in the fabulous view.
Are you ready?
I mean it’s totally amazeballs.
I guess another trip up the mountain is in order and perhaps we might wait until summer really kicks in but most importantly perhaps we bloody well SHOULD pay attention to my weather app that never, ever seems to be wrong.
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My father in law passed away recently. He might have been a colossal pain in my ass but he was also a big part of my life. I will miss him a lot.
There are so many fond memories of my father in law that I could mention but perhaps my earliest memory of him is the best as it sets the tone for our whole relationship.
It was back in the autumn of 2001. The world had gone to shit and I was in a Muslim country wondering whether I should high-tail it back to the relative normalcy of Australia. Instead, I travelled from Bodrum to the Village to meet The Turk’s extended family. It was a long twenty-four hours by bus and I was beyond exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to be dragged into a room spilling over with people all staring and shouting and smiling, waiting to meet the yabancı gelin. I was so nervous that I nearly threw up (which is more likely because I was also pregnant at the time). There, in the centre of the room was a tall, thin and extremely loud man who was the spitting image of The Turk. Definitely his dad! The Turk introduced me. “This is Hurşit.”
“What did you say?”
“That’s exactly what I
Once The Turk translated my lousy attempt at his mother’s tongue for the rest of the family my father in law roared with laughter and pulled me in for a hug. The man definitely had an excellent sense of humour but sensibly it was suggested that from that moment on I should call him Dede.
This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Dede was a constant source of entertainment (and more often than not bewilderment) for me. He was crabby and very bloody opinionated, but he could be swayed pretty easily with a glass of wine or slipping him a few lira so he could have a flutter on the horses. He was practically deaf and spent his days shouting at the television or yelling at the family (or at anyone who happened to pass by for that matter) but when he wasn’t bellowing about the state of the world he would be singing and loved nothing more than an appreciative audience as he sang Turkish love songs in an effort to make us smile. Time passed and dementia reared its ugly head but that didn’t sway Dede’s smile or laughter, although now he spoke mostly in Arabic which made it impossible for me to understand him or to tend to his needs. Dede hated my cooking but he still ate with gusto. He could swear like a sailor and very much appreciated when I swore back at him because it meant that at least I was practising my abysmal Turkish. He was at his happiest sitting beside a mangal (bbq) in the sunshine surrounded by his family.
Over the years we had all been on the receiving end of Dede’s scathing humour. I never really mind because most of the time I totally deserved it, in fact one of my final memories was of him making me look like a bit of a galah … again.
On a recent shopping trip I had totally splurged and brought myself the most fabulous leopard print jacket along with a pair of knee-high boots. After an outing wearing my spiffy new outfit (and feeling like bir milyar dollar I might add), I returned home to find The Turk and Dede partaking in a glass of çay at my front door. He took one look at me and nearly busted a gut laughing. I knew I was just about to become the butt of one of his jokes.
“Neye gülüyorsun?” (“What are you laughing at?”)
He pointed at me. “Salak!” (“Idiot!”)
I gave him the finger. “Sen salaksin”. (You’re the idiot.”)
He laughed even harder and hit me with his cane as I passed. “Siktir git ya!” (“Fuck off!”).
The Turk watched on with glee before he too started laughing. I stormed off tossing swear words back at them as I left (mostly in English but with a few choice Turkish words thrown in for good measure). I could still hear Dede’s raucous laughter as I stomped off up the stairs.
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Expats are few and far between in Mersin, and over the years I have met some very *ahem* exciting characters. Some I see once and then block them from my mind and social media in the hope of never passing paths again, and others are my closest friends and allies here in this crazy city hahaha.
The thing with having such a small group is that when you do meet that character that you just don’t gel with it can be nearly impossible to escape from them. You see them at the same events, hanging out at the same restaurants and you bump into them at your local pazar/beautician/dentist – but of course you introduced them to said pazar/beautician/dentist! You dumb ass!!
This happened to me recently, and I found the whole experience quite exhausting. I was my usual friendly persona, welcoming said expat with open arms and introducing said expat to other members of the group and beforementioned pazar/beautician/dentist; however, I realised pretty early on that I had nothing in common with said expat. I found said expat’s behaviour towards others in the group appalling and said expats behaviour to the locals ludicrous at times. Oh, and I also realised pretty early on that said expat was batshit crazy!
Said expat found themselves in a bit of a jam as well while here in Mersin and when the situation imploded (which of course it did) it was all hands on deck. However, despite other members of the group giving sound advice and being a listening board said expat decided to do the absolute opposite to the advice that was given and found themselves in an even more precarious position. I don’t know everything, in fact, I don’t know a lot, but I do know that when a situation is shitty, it’s time to leave. It’s not the time to include as many people as possible in your personal drama.
I think the thing that frustrated me the most about said expat was the fact that she felt she was so entitled to her opinion and expectations and also expected all of us to drop everything to deal her every problem. Oh, and said expat never said thank you. Not even once. Rudeness!
Said expat has gone now thankfully. I hope said expat never comes back to Mersin or if she does come back then hopefully she doesn’t contact me again – of course she probably won’t because I have already blocked her on my social media and she was banished from the expat group due to her nastiness.
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I used to say that making salça (paste) with my SIL was the most fun you could have in the Village with your clothes on. In fact, I even complained a few years back about my SIL’s family taking over my salça making duties and ruining my fun. I take it back now. All of it. Salça making ain’t fun. In fact, now I think that making salca is the equivalent of giving birth. It’s long, painful, incredibly messy, it can take weeks of recuperation afterwards before you feel yourself again but, surprisingly, in the end, you’re prepared to go through it all that pain again next year. And of course you’ve got all that fabulous salça at the end of it all.
Well that day is here again and I was chomping at the bit to make our kırmızı biber salça. 200kg of kırmızı biber (red capsicum) ready to be transformed into salça by me, my SIL and her mother. Oh, and My Hurley Dog who assisted by chasing kediler (cats) and rolling in the mess until he was stained red. He is not happy right now and is well aware that a bath is in his immediate future.
Back to my story. 200kg of kırmızı biber is a lot of biber. My SIL called me down at 5 am, not to start work but to help make the ekmek (bread) for kahlvatı (breakfast). To me making the ekmek is more work than its actually worth. I’m happy to nick to the market and grab a couple of loafs of bread for 1TL each! After the ekmek we started on the salca and it was just freaking exhausting. Toiling away (before the real heat of mid-morning hits) with the cutting, cleaning, mulching (is it called mulching) before lugging buckets of bibersalca up three flights of stairs and spreading it out in huge bowls to spend the next ten days in the sunshine (I swear if it rains!). Nine trips up those stairs today with two buckets each trip! FML!
The stairs are now stained red. My feet are stained red (blending nicely with my orange nail polish) and my hands are as red as my eyes. I’m exhausted. Time for a shower, a glass of red (same colour as my hands, my eyes, my dog and my stairs) and an early night (just like after I had a baby – well I didn’t have the glass of red but the rest stands true).
Quote of the day by my 7-year-old niece – “cok tatl” (“so cute”) upon finding a worm (or maybe a maggot) in one of the biber. Don’t be horrified by the idea of a worm/maggot in the biber. Anyone who has ever made salça is well aware that its luck of the draw with those massive bags of biber. Some are good, some are bad and sadly, some are rotten. Adds to the taste according to The Turk (although the worm/maggot in question did not form part of my salça I swear to you).
So, when I say next year that I am making salça someone point me to this post – and to the looney bin.
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Hello, it’s me, Janey … in Mersin (in case you forgot). I know I’ve said this in the past but my life has definitely been really busy over these few months. Some days are out of my control and by the time that I get home I’m usually exhausted. It takes all my effort to pour that first glass of wine. The second and third glasses do come a lot easier.
In all honesty, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to write. Mersin has its moments but they are nothing new. I’ve written about them before. Roosters crowing? Wrote it. The Turk fighting? Done it. Random family members doing random crazy shit? All over it! I have done a little more travelling, went to a wedding or nine and maybe I will post a few blogs in the coming weeks but unless aliens land here in the village there won’t be an awful lot to write.
Daughter and I were away for two months, spending quality time in Australia and a naughty side trip to Bali. It was definitely good to get back to Australia and spend time with our Aussie family and friends. I even had the opportunity to catch up with some school friends which was fabulous. I will miss my 30 year high school reunion later this year (although do I really want to catch up with most of them? Nope. I had my core group and I loved them. The rest can go and jump in the lake). And it was definitely great to eat bacon. Man, I love me some bacon. Yes, I know you know that but I just needed to reiterate it one final time – I love bacon.
Even though I was away I had some pretty remarkable hits on the page mind you. It looks like Mersin is slowly being considered a tourist destination in its own right (I know I’m as shocked as you are). The Turk suggested to me that perhaps I was being stalked but I’m not sure why anyone would want to stalk me, because as fascinating as I believe I am my life here in the Village is truly dull and exceedingly uninteresting. And before you laugh it has happened before people turning up on our doorstep having tracked me down. No! I swear it’s true! But that’s okay, as long as they’re not Ted Bundy or that Manson fellow … or maybe IS.
Summer is definitely here and Mersin is feeling like Satan’s asshole right now. Coming from a very pleasant Sydney winter (with its average temperatures of 22-24) I’m a little jealous of my friends up in the mountains with their mountain breezes although the two times I have been up to visit since my return it’s been 30 degrees both days. Not so cool (although it was probably mid-40’s back in the village).
Socially here in Mersin, many of the expats and locals disappear for summer. Like me, the expats go and visit their homeland and the locals get the hell out of Dodge because it’s just so freaking steamy as feck. A few of the expats have moved on to new cities and countries but when one goes another usually arrives although sometimes this can be more drama than it’s worth.
Oh, and I’ve finished the first draft of my novel (which takes up an extraordinary amount of time). It’s currently being read by a few trusted friends and I got some pretty realistic feedback so on their recommendation I’ve sent it off for an edit. We’ll see where this goes. And it’s only the first draft so I expect there will be another 100 drafts before I am finally satisfied with it. Give me the strength!
So, keep an eye out for some new material in the coming weeks. I will be in touch and remember to message me on my FB page (here) if you want or need to make contact.
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It wasn’t really a fall, it was more of a complete transformation of a mild mannered *cough, cough* Aussie chick into a fully functioning, homicidal maniac but I must say I felt better getting it off my chest and I want to give all you guys a shout out as well. So many of you wrote to me and told me your horror stories living here in Türkiye (and elsewhere) making mine seem perhaps a tad absurd but also giving me the strength to face a new day.
I haven’t always been honest about how I was feeling mostly because I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining. For many of us there is a romanticism to living in Türkiye. I get that. So many people say how lucky we are and how they would love to do it too. Sure, we are very lucky – we chose this life but it isn’t always easy.
When I self-analyse my meltdown (thank you Google) I think it mostly stems from a depression that snuck up on me, so quietly that I didn’t even realise it until it swallowed me whole. I had an inkling back in January that there was something askew while I was having a long weekend in London. I caught up with my bestie who lives there and spent much of the day in tears.
Up front I don’t consider myself someone who gets depressed easily. I am pretty chill and I think most people who know me would agree however since my knee operation and its very, VERY slow recovery I found myself becoming increasing depressed which has been magnified by the fact that I am living in a country that doesn’t really take its mental health all that seriously (as it fecking should)!
Putting aside Türkiye’nin domestic and regional tensions an expat here is also contending with bureaucratic bungles, visa issues, cultural differences, language barriers – ugh the list goes on – but all of this has the potential to send even the sanest among us kicking and screaming to the looney bin. The simplest of tasks become untenable and, as an expat, it’s hard to make people understand that you feel lost and need help.
For me personally I find that, despite being surrounded by family ALL THE TIME, I still feel isolated and unsupported and very much alone. I would lock myself in my bedroom and cry and cry. I really started to resent the family, not just The Turk and Daughter, but the extended re-mix of family that lives within spitting distance. I missed my privacy. I can’t walk around naked (I would never walk around naked but now I don’t even have that option). Cooking a meal requires every pot and pan in the house and for feck’s sake why do they all have to YELL???? ALL THE TIME??? It rattles me. A family dinner is exhausting and takes me days to recover. A bayram is my personal hell with family coming in from other cities to add to the chaos. I’m getting the sweats just thinking about it.
The Turk isn’t really as supportive or sympathetic as he should be. I think growing up in the Village he has seen it all and his mindset is to ignore the problem and it will go away. Daughter is a hormonal teenager off doing her own thing and I often go days getting little more than a grunt from her as she passes me in the hallway. So it’s just me. Alone. And being alone can be scary.
But what I DO know about me is this I am, in fact, one badass bitch! I am fecking sensational! I am Sensational Janey (such moniker given to me by an equally sensational Turk) and I am part of a group of Sensational Bad-Ass Bitches who navigate life here in Mersin.
Now I’m taking it one day at a time. I find something positive and I run with it. I went to the pazar in Menderes this week (it is seriously the best pazar in Mersin). I spent much more than I had anticipated (tomatoes were surprisingly expensive with 4kg setting me back 18TL) followed by a delicious yogurt tantuni with one of the Bad-Ass Bitches that live here. I am really pushing myself to walk again to build strength back in my legs and to improve my health generally and finally, I am back to writing, which I have always found to be very cathartic.
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