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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Sometimes being an Expat Sux!

I can probably count the number of close friends I have had in my life on two hands.  These are the friends that I know will be there for me through thick and thin.  They are the ones with a box of tissues or a bottle of wine and they are the ones that remind me that I can have a dream and turn it into a reality and they will be right beside me to cheer me on.  These friends, these soul mates, these are the people that I miss more than anything living here in Turkey.

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Sure I have The Turk’s family.  They have welcomed me with open arms but they are not my girlfriends, the ones you tell your deepest secrets to (although I think we can all agree my life is a pretty open book – or blog).  Plus that whole pesky issue of not speaking the language makes it tough to form close bonds.

With The Turk away I have become increasingly lonely and with the Daughter at school during the day I find myself mind numbly bored.  I have come to the realisation that I must actually like him (at least a little bit).  His health scare certainly scared the shit out of me and now I am just waiting for him to get the all-clear from his doctor before he can come home.

I am told that an overwhelming sense of emptiness and loneliness is normal for an expat and the waves of loneliness comes and goes leaving you either gutted or living on a high.  Being so far away from home the onset of depression can occur suddenly, the tiniest thing will set me off and when that happens the most I can hope for is to be left alone in my blackness until clarity re-sets.  I think if I lived in a more expat friendly city I would thrive but living here in Mersin it can be an incredibly hard slog.

It is my own fault you know.  Having this blog has opened up a huge window of contacts but I squandered the opportunities that I had and did not go out of my way to cultivate friendships and relationships with people.  I was always too busy and I know how difficult it can be to form friendships.  It can be a hard slog but do you know what else I have realised?  I realised that if I don’t make the effort then nothing in my life will change.  Deep I know.

So this is what I did.  I got off my ass.  I made contact with people.  Plans were made.  Dates were set and I can happily say that I now have a great little group of friends to play with.  I have learned that I am not the only one that suffers from the blues living so far away from home.  We are all missing our family and our friends.  A support system needs to be in place for us expats.  We need to be each other’s family and to step in and be that shoulder to lean on when needed.  Coffee in Carsi?  Sure.  BBQ in Yenikoy?  Definitely.  Drinks in Viransehir?  Of course!  Also I need to be friends with someone who can get me ham and yes there is such a person here in Mersin – hello Danny Boy!

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Like I said it can bloody difficult living here.

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The Return

Daughter and I have finally settled back in from our holiday in Australia.  Visiting Australia.  I was a visitor, a tourist if you must, visiting the place of my birth and what I have learnt from this visit?  I learnt that Sydney and Australia is a fecking beaut place to live.

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Mother nature did us a major and the weather was sensational.  It didn’t rain.  It didn’t even think about raining.  Beautiful, albeit cold, winter days.  Every day.  Fresh air.  Lush gardens.  Grass.  GRASS!  We are the only people in the Village with grass in our garden.  Grass is, of course, seen as a luxury item as everyone else utilises every inch of their land.  Deli yabanciler (crazy foreigners).

It was nice to not be on the cusp of a war zone too staying in beachside Collaroy.  Yes I gloss over Syria and its issues but Mersin is approximately 150k from the Syrian border.  We are safe obviously or I would not even think about living here but there is always an underlying threat, the knowledge I guess, that we are not too far from an area of such unrest.  Plus there is the whole Israel-Palestinian issue, the Middle East is a powder keg ready to blow and even Ukraine to the north is a mess.  Bloody hell!

Friends and family of course.  Obviously Australia wins on this front as well.  I am blessed to have some of the best friends in the world.  Friends that are always there with open arms.  What I wouldn’t do for one more boozy lunch or one more hug from my girls.  Of course this is difficult for Daughter as she has her family, her cousins that she adores, in the Village.  She has many friends in the Village but for me Sydney and Australia will win every single time.

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Speaking of boozy lunches I don’t think you can beat an Aussie Red.  Australian wines really are some of the best in the world.  I would go so far as saying that Turkish wine is swill at best and really, really expensive!

Medical care wins in Australia over Turkey as well (well duh!).  Australia has Government facilitated Medicare and even though you pay through the tooth for many things (including the dentist) visiting the doctor here is a much easier process (mainly because everyone speaks English).  So I am now drugged up for the next 12 months (my medicine cabinet is overflowing) and I have been poked and prodded and given a clean bill of health.

Shopping was a bonus too for me in Sydney.  My Rubenesque physique is now adorned in new clothes.  Oodles of new clothes.  I no longer need to wear the same jeans every single day.  My credit card did take a beating and we did have to send home 10 kilos by post but at least I now have an outfit for any occasion which is a good thing as we have at least 4 weddings to go to over the coming weeks.  Daughter’s opinion differs on this front as well as the styles in Turkey are a lot more varied and on trend.  For Daughter clothing in Turkiye is also a LOT cheaper as well.

Bacon.  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  Winner!!!  Lots of exclamation points here.  Yes.  Bacon.  That is all.

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Sydney did have a few downsides too.  It was so damn expensive.  Food was expensive.  Clothing was expensive.  Petrol was expensive (actually petrol is expensive in Turkey too).  I guess I have had it too cushy here in Turkey with 50 kuruş for 1 kilo of tomatoes (about AU$0.25) while they were AU$4.50 in Sydney (TL9).  Plus the fresh food is not particularly fresh.  Ick!

Peak hour traffic did my head in too.  What a bloody mess.  We had a few early morning starts and fighting my way from the Northern Beaches to the City was diabolical to say the least.  It was nice to be behind the wheel again although my first few attempts at parking were a little less than successful.  Daughter likened my parking skills to a Turkish person so I really have acclimated haven’t I?

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I think I can sum Sydney up as “Real Life”.  My friends are all working.  My family are all busy (some might say too busy to find the time to see me or even call).  The cost of living is high and the stress levels are even higher.  I know that if I too were living in Sydney I would be working.  My stress levels would be off the chart (visiting my old place of work proved that beyond the shadow of a doubt) and Daughter, The Turk and I would be miserable.  Real life sux!

The Village also has another bonus (well along with The Turk).  It has My Hurley Dog.  I love My Hurley Dog.  I missed My Hurley Dog and he missed me!

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Desperately Seeking Kramer

Kramer – noun – meaning a social gathering, a group gathered for a social event , a group of persons with a common interest.  A Kramer for me is meeting up with some of my closest friends for lunch or dinner or drinks or whatever reason at all and having an absolutely wonderful time!

Today I had a 4 way texting conversation with my friends in Sydney.  What started with a bit of a giggle over social media brought me to the realisation of just how much I want to sit with my friends over a glass or three of a good red (which I certainly do not get here in Mersin) and chew the fat so to speak.  I want to listen to their stories.  I want to hear their laughter through good times and be there supporting them through their pain.  I miss my friends and I want to see them.  I miss my family and want to see them.

Don’t get me wrong I am not lonely.  I am very happy.  I spend my day’s blogging (which takes up an extraordinary amount of time) and when I am not blogging I make half assed attempts at writing my first novel, while taking the dog for a walk, visiting with neighbours, learning what is, in my opinion, the most difficult language in the world and being a wife to the Turk and mother to Daughter who is, right now, behaving like a pre-teen nightmare.  Although Turkey is definitely where I need to be right now and this experience is bringing me to where I will be in the future right now I realise just now much I miss my girls and as I frantically typed texts to them today, trying to get all my thoughts out in the space of a few moments between each text, I think about why each of these girls are so important to me.

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There is Ris – one of my oldest friends.  Do you remember the Blue Light Disco’s together (yes I am that old).  You were with me on that first infamous trip to Turkey when I met The Turk.  You was there for our first date that wasn’t a date – and our first fight.  You were so funny that night when we were running through the back streets thinking the Turk was chasing us.  I cannot wait until we can laugh the night away together.  You may not know just how much you encourage me, you keep going when I am down with your regular telephone calls and messages (I love it when the phone rings and you are on the line).  When we finished our text chat today you finished with the words “I expect to hear some kind of reference to this in your next blog janey xxx”.  Happy now Ris?

Then there is Mich – you went and got married without me.  Even though you eloped I wasn’t there for you and I feel like I have let you down and missed out on one of your most important life moments.  I want to hug you and spend time with your sweetness and your generous heart.  Do you remember when I saved you from Guilo by throwing you in my Datsun 200B and driving you home?  I drove so fast that my little 200B lifted onto 2 wheels.  How excellent was that!  No-one has your kindness or your heart.  I miss you terribly.

Finally there is Sash – married with kids she is the friend that has worked her ass off and finally the prize is within reach.  We did not speak for many years (thanks to an ex-boyfriend who definitely isn’t worth mentioning and no it is not Mr Mediocre) but I am glad that we re-connected and are a close as we are now.  When I think of you Sash I think of Flaming Lamborghini’s, the most potent drink that was available to us girls when we went dancing and to our late night dramas.  Currently studying law you have fought hard for all that you have.  You will finish it goddamn it and will finally get everything that you have ever dreamed of – for sure!

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And although not part of this texting party (she doesn’t do social networking) she still deserves a special mention – Carls is possibly one of my bestest buds.  She does so much for me although obviously she does not do any recent photos as that photo was taken 10 years ago.  She is my contact – she actually was my PA many moons ago – in Sydney.  She was my birthing partner, in fact she held Daughter before I did and she was the sponsor for The Turk when he first came to Sydney.  I can never repay her for her generosity giving me the life that I have right now (even though I may hate The Turk have the time).  The most generous, crazy so and so you would ever want to meet and who will give you more laughs than you could ever imagine.  This wonderful girl deserves all the happiness in the world.

God I miss my friends.

 Don’t hate me peeps if I haven’t mentioned you in person.  Each of you is equally important to me.  I know that when I see each of you I will laugh, cry, reminisce, listen to your stories, giggle at your expense – or at my expense – eat, drink and be merry before crying when I say goodbye again.

I cannot wait to get back to Sydney in June.  Although it is only for a fleeting moment I will take that time and treasure it in my heart.

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Realisation

I came to the realisation yesterday that I have been excessively blogging as a means of ignoring my feelings.  The time that I have spent sitting at the computer (mid-morning after breakfast and prior to Daughter returning home from school) is the time that I would usually sit with my mother in law in the sunshine enjoying a cup of cay.  So here I am trying to fill this void with typing (as I am doing right now at 10.29 am).

So today I am going to walk away from the computer and perhaps have a little time to examine my feelings.  I understand the finalisation of death although I still wait for Refika to call me downstairs.  I think it is more that I loved my mother in law as an akadas (friend) as well as a motherly figure (and the fact that I had watched her smack The Turk with a stick when he pissed her off).  Her and her little gaggle of friends welcomed me into their lives and she accepted me as her daughter not her daughter in law.  Sure I was a yabanci (foreigner) but Refika always included me in her day whether it was teaching me to cook the Turkish way, visiting her sisters for a good gossip session or merely watching her favourite shows on television.

Looking out my window I can see it is yet another beautiful, sunny day in Karaduvar.  Time to close the laptop and get out there.  Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy my life.

Until next time.

No Touching Please – I’m Australian

I have never been a big fan over overfamiliarity.  No unnecessary hugging or kissing or . . . look just get out of my dance space okay?

Here in Turkey it is in fact unusual to not be overly familiar with people.  A “gunaydin” (“Good morning”) is usually accompanied with a kiss on both cheeks and a hug for good measure.  The first time it happened I stiffened like a board but now I have come to accept (albeit reluctantly) that friends or strangers alike they will come at you whether you want them to or not.

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It is also absolutely acceptable to give a kiss or a hug to a stranger’s child, which would not only be be unheard of back in Australia., you would probably be arrested for it!

The first time I took Daughter to Turkey she was 10 weeks old.  The Turk did not yet have a visa and so I was taking her to meet her father.  It was a 27 hour flight from whoa to go – Sydney/Bangkok/Istanbul/Bodrum.  By the time I reached Istanbul I was haggard.  Travelling as a single mother was extremely challenging particularly with the precious little package that I had with me.  Arriving in Istanbul I had a 4 hour wait for my connection to Bodrum.  I sat with Daughter in my arms on a chair and promptly passed out from exhaustion.  When I awoke Daughter was no longer in my arms.  She had been kidnapped by the elderly Turkish lady sitting next to me who kept her for the whole flight and at one point I wondered if she was ever going to give her back.  Luckily The Turk was waiting and she reluctantly handed Daughter over to him but not before she kissed, cuddled and thoroughly examined her.

Daughter also has her own issue with the overfamiliarity.  It seems that not only do her friends in the village school greet each other every morning with kisses and hugs it is also not unusual for a teacher to hug or kiss a student – certainly not what this Aussie kid is used to and it made me say “Yikes” when I found out!

Over the past week I have probably kissed and hugged over 1000 people which, putting aside my non-touching issues also brings up my germaphobe issues.  People – keep your hands and lips to yourself.  It’s the flu season.  I have run out of my Dettol hand sanitizer and I am now having a general melt down.  The Turk is sick, Daughter sounds like she is hocking up a lung and I am running around with my Eucalyptus spray wiping down every hard surface that they touch.