Gülek Kalesi

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!

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Definitely memorable.

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A little deli perhaps?

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I know!

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.

Ugh!

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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Breakfast at Melemez

Anyone who has visited Turkey has no doubt indulged in an authentic Turkish kahvaltı (breakfast). Tables of food filled with kőy (village) grown or locally sourced products lovingly prepared by your Turkish host.

Here in Mersin, there are many, MANY places to get a Turkish breakfast but, like most things, the challenge is finding the best spot to indulge. One such spot I got to experience recently is Giritli Cemilenin Yeri Kahvalti. This lokanta is in Melemez, a village not too far from my home, and is unlike anything I had ever visited before in Mersin because Melemez is, in fact, a Greek village.

Settled in the late 1800s by Muslim Cretans, they brought with them their Greek colours, Greek lifestyle and even, bless them, their Greek wine-making skills.

Following the distinctive Greek signage into the small village the lokanta succeeded in whisking me away to my distant memories of Crete with its eclectic style but, as usual, I thought only with my stomach and what excited me the most was our breakfast table literally groaning under the weight of all our breakfast choices.

Along with a variety of cheeses, crisp cucumbers and baskets of freshly baked bread there was green and black olives, village eggs cooked to perfection, sun-ripened tomatoes, home-made fig and apricot preserves, pekmez (grape molasses), creamy yogurt and more borek (cheese pastries) that you could possibly consume. We were welcomed like family and the owner even suggested we finish off our breakfast with a sampling of his home-made wine (a breakfast tradition that this token Aussie could totally get behind!).

Weekends get busy in Melemez with visitors coming from all around to enjoy the unique village and their weekend market, where the locals sell their products including şarap (wine), zeytin yağlı (olive oil), salca (tomato paste) yumurtular (eggs) and turşusu (pickled vegetables), is usually teeming with people. The roads can also be busy, but this is probably due to the four feet kind of traffic rather than a four-wheel kind.

Credit: Moe

A Turkish breakfast is meant to be savoured and time will slip away from you but before you leave Melemez behind take the opportunity to wander around this picturesque village. Being with two photographers (who are prepared to get down and dirty when they need to) we got to meet quite a few of the locals who were glad to show us their homes, their gardens and even their ovens (as you do).

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My Inspiration

Sunrise is my favourite time of day.  I am definitely a morning person and am usually pretty knackered and ready for bed and a good book quite early in the evening.  I take a photo of the sunrise from the terrace most mornings.  I don’t know why.  I guess seeing Mother Nature using her colour palette always amazes me.  She brings all variations of pink, blue, orange and yellow to the early morning. I can sit back and watch the village begin its day in peace and quiet.  Looking at the sky I can guess that it will probably be warm again.  Winter has gone bye-bye and it’s already starting to heat up.  No snow on the mountains behind me either so I’m guessing it’s going be a long, hot summer.  Again.

sunrise

My Istanbul posts are still brewing and I’ve been busy editing the first few chapters of Salep and Ginger in an effort to get it out before summer and can I just say … editing is awful, fecking awful. I mean don’t get me wrong my editor is great and really supportive but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of writing it’s not just me typing whatever comes into my head anymore its punctuation and grammar and consistency.  Sentence structure, story structure.  The rhythm of the story.  Even the font and spacing.  All of it matters.  And I am glad.  I want my manuscript to be the best that it can be.  So now I have to think!  God forbid!!

Time to jump to it … before real life catches up. If you are thinking of visiting Turkey this summer why not grab a travel book to give you some inspiration


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Starry, Starry Night

Anyone who has driven down into Mersin on Akbelen Boulevard has no doubt seen Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” painted onto one of the old buildings along the street.  If like me, you wondered who did these paintings, I can now give you the answer as I recently had a chance to connect with the artist Ertuğrul Çavuşoğlu.

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Originally from Van, Ertuğrul is a self-taught artist that has been employed by the Toroslar municipality, along with Nazife Bilgin Hazar, to beautify the area and I think they are doing a splendid job, don’t you?

They have completed ten buildings but they are hopeful that their work will continue well into 2018.  They have chosen a range of famous works by Turkish and Arabic artists as well as the European masters mentioned above.

Toroslar 3

Ertuğrul is hoping that his work will inspire younger people into wanting to learn more about the famous paintings that he has replicated and the artists behind the work.  He wants his adopted city to know that art is important.  Art makes you feel and art can take you places you have never imagined.  Art is fundamentally the same all over the world and is a common language which (for me at least) still allows us to all enjoy the work together.

I love this last photo.

Toroslar photos

All photos are courtesy of Milliyet with Ertuğrul’s full approval.

You can follow Ertuğrul’s progress on his Instagram – ertugrul1828 – here.

 

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How about a colouring book from Amazon so you can make your own masterpieces –

F*ck Terrorism

Update:  There was little information in relation to the attack in Mersin as authorities had issued a media ban.

Further 11 suspects have been detained in connection with the attack. It was also revealed that it was suspected that the PKK, a terrorist group active in the country since 1980s, is the likely culprit.

The PKK resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015, unilaterally violating a cease-fire agreement. The organisation rose to prominence in the early 1980s in southeastern Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population.

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Yesterday afternoon a bomb exploded as a service bus carrying polis passed by here in Mersin.  Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said 17 police officers and one local were wounded in the attack. He also added that it was a “terror attack”.

bomb 1

The blast occurred on the main road which was full of commuters on their way home from work and children on their way home from school. It took place in the densely populated area of Yenisehir. I had friends on that road. I myself was with Daughter only a block away.

Of course, Daughter and I had no idea. I mean mysterious explosions happen in Mersin all the time anyway. The other night I was on my terrace and the loudest bang I had ever heard nearly blasted me out of my seat. No idea where it came from. No idea what it was. No one seemed perturbed and went about their business in the Village so ‘whatev’s’.

Whatev’s has been fine up until now. Now, for the first time, a terrorist attack has come within spitting distance of me, my family and my friends.

I have always felt safe here in Mersin.  There has always a very large polis presence on the streets and security at government buildings, shopping centres and community gatherings.   Roadblocks and licence checks are common (hell it happens to me all the time). In fact, you can rarely drive through the city without passing polis on main corners carrying big-ass guns and checking cars as they pass. On the news, we get regular updates on terrorism threats and the polis efforts in thwarting these attempts. Arrests. Crackdowns. And with Mersin’s polis force on the hunt, we have not suffered from any significant attacks. Until now.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing although the initial word is that it is Kurdish militants who frequently target police vehicles and transports vans. I expect the polis investigators will be all over this and arrests will be made very soon.

My heart goes out to the 17 polis officers and one civilian that were injured in this attack.

This shit has got to stop.

To those of us living in Mersin and Türkiye – be vigilant guys.  Be aware of your surroundings.  If shit looks iffy its probably for good reason but my hope is that this was an isolated incident.  I also believe that security in Mersin will be even more heightened in response to the attack.

And my response to terrorism, we owe it to those injured in this attack and to all the other victims terrorism attacks around Türkiye and the world to not let the terrorist win by being terrorised.  That’s exactly the response they want.

Feck Terrorism!

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Spirit in the Sky

Mersin is full of so much history and gorgeous scenery and yet, living here, I seldom get further than my front door so the opportunity to join a couple of amateur photographers as they travelled deep into the Tarsus Mountains to explore the ruins of a monastery was an opportunity just too good to miss.

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After an early start, we left the shimmering Mersin coastline behind us and followed the Gosku River up into the winding mountains, past fertile plains and sweet smelling pine forests before finally arriving at our destination – Alahan Monastery.

Alahan 7

Built over 1500 years ago the monks of Alahan must have known they were onto a good thing when they chose this spot.  It’s a prime location rising 1300 feet above the surrounding valleys with numerous caves, natural water courses and good crop land below.   The ruins are still in excellent condition despite earthquakes, a few wars and no doubt general tomfoolery of locals and can be traversed fairly easily (even with my banged-up knee).

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We entered the Monastery via the Basilica where the reliefs on the columns and remaining stone are a good example of the Byzantine era.  Past the Basilica is a small Baptistry for pilgrims to be baptised before following the remains of the colonnade to another larger Basilica.  Archaeologists believe that the larger Basilica is a good example of domical construction using carefully cut and assembled stone without mortar to build the domed ceiling.  The larger Basilica is highly praised for its resemblance to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia (and arguably built before the famed Hagia Sophia).  The stone and slabs are decorated with reliefs of fish, foliage as well as clearly defined Christian crosses.

Alahan 8

Credit:  N. Habbas

Alahan 9

Credit:  N. Habbas

The Monastery has been extensively restored and was re-opened to the public in 2015 and is included on UNESCO’s Tentative World Heritage List.

After spending an hour at the Monastery, we travelled back down into the valley passing fields of red poppies as well as row after row of kayısı (apricot) trees before returning back to Mersin, stopping along the way for the well-known Mersin favourite – tantuni.

Entrance fee: 5TL or free if you have the Müze pass (Museum pass).

Getting there:  Approximately 3 hours (including 2 stops), take the D400 to Silifke and then follow the D715 to Mut.  Alahan Monastery is located about 20km past Mut.  Keep an eye out for signage as it is easy to miss due to current road works.

Best time to go:  We were here on a weekday and had the place to ourselves.  Locals tell us that weekends can be quite busy with bus tours visiting from neighbouring cities.

Tip:  If visiting in summer it will be hot, hot, hot.  Take water and wear sunscreen.

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The Day That Türkiye Broke Me

I always refer to Türkiye as a woman.  Türkiye is strong.  She can be a little temperamental at times and has even been known to chuck a wobbly every now and then but usually things return to normal.  I mean it’s normal for relationships to have their ups and downs and yes I am aware that in psychology circles I would be called an Enabler.  Oh and upfront this is not a political post.  I will not make any comments in relation to that ridiculous Referendum and its outcome.  Oops.  Sorry.

Back to my story.

Yes Türkiye can be a little tempermental but usually I forgive and forget – but not this time.  What started as a day became a week and seriously seems to be moving into a month and everything here in the Village, in Mersin and even in Türkiye, is pissing me the hell off.  I held out as long as I could but enough is enough and finally, she broke me.  Türkiye broke me.

FireAnd even as I write this I know I am being a pouting princess and I know how lucky I am living in this beautiful country, but honestly shit should get easier, you know!

Alright let’s rewind and I will vent and then maybe, just maybe, I can move on from her most recent transgression.

It all started last Wednesday.  It was a normal Wednesday.  The Turk and I had kahvaltı on the terrace while below us Dede was screaming at the passerby (yes this is normal for us).  I mentioned to The Turk that we had no internet and no telephone – again.  “Sorun değil aşkım” was his reply and he rang TTnet to arrange for a service.  I pointed out that I think we needed an electrician but, of course, The Turk knew better (and God forbid he is never wrong).  At this point I just want to say that I am also dealing with a temperamental 14 year old who literally HATES THE WORLD so when she realised on Wednesday morning that there was no internet – again – seriously folks don’t worry about North Korea dropping a fecking nuclear bomb on anyone worry about Daughter blowing a fecking gasket!!!

By Friday the internet was still not fixed AND to add to my current woes we also had no electricity.  I thought this would be a good time for me to get out of the Village and do the grocery shopping.  I hit Migros and I brought up big!  Came to the register to pay, handed over my credit card and – declined!  WTF???  Of course I didn’t have the cash to pay for my groceries so I had to leave them at the shop and return home empty handed.  And that was it.  It was that simple.  I broke.

By the time I got home I was in tears.  I threw myself on the couch and cried for a good few hours before finally putting myself to bed.  At 4pm.  It was suggested to me that I needed chocolate and red wine – stat – but as my credit card was declined I didn’t even have these simple medicinal necessities to tide me over and so I lay in bed crying my eyes out and wishing I was back in Sydney where this shit just wouldn’t happen.

Sure I know these are all First World Problems, and yes, I know I am being a bit of a şımarık, but seriously no electricity, no internet, no telephone and now no cash!  What the feck did I ever do to you Türkiye?  Have I ever done anything but love you?  Support you?  Talk you up to my friends?  Yeah that’s right!  And you turn on me!  Well I’m pissed off and I won’t stand for it anymore!  In fact I’m breaking up with you!

friends breakup photovisiAnyhow, TTnet finally arrived on Saturday morning and confirmed that we did, in fact, need an electrician so The Turk called a guy who knew a guy who promised to be at ours by 2pm.  At 6.17pm four teenage boys arrived at our house.  They were the electricians!  Ugh!  One of the boys refused to come into the house because of My Hurley Dog so screamed instructions through the door (Çek!  Çek!) to the other three as they re-wired our telephone and internet.  By 10pm they had finished.  We had internet.  We had telephone.  Yah!!!  By 11.15pm? Gone!  Again!

It comes and goes now.  That’s okay.  I guess.  And we only lost the electricity once yesterday (although it was for 6 hours).

What I find so incomprehensible is that everyone seems to accept substandard workmanship and bad behaviour.  They have all these social niceties but when it comes to service they just accept that the work will be dodgy or the quality of their goods and services will be less than stellar.  It is the norm here in Türkiye but it shouldn’t be.  People should expect excellent service if they are paying for it.  The Turk just shrugs as says “Bu Türkiye!”  Nope more like Bu-llshit!!

And speaking of bullshit let me just tell you one more little story before I get dragged off to the looney bin.

After my second meltdown on Sunday to my BIL (as my television had no signal and our intermittent internet was gone – fecking again) a television service was arranged.  The dude arrived yesterday on time (a first) and proceeded to reconfigure our satellite dish for a better service.  I only really watch one or two shows on television, I don’t really care if there is service or not because I watch television via the internet (if we have internet that is) BUT there is one English news channel – TRT World – and even though it is a completely bias channel run by the Government (please don’t shut me down “Powers That Be”) it was, at least, in English.  Until our little friend serviced my dish that is, now we have lost the channel.  FML!

Anyway before he left he asked to use the bathroom.  He disappeared behind the door for a good thirty minutes.  What on earth did he do in there?  Well I certainly found out within moments of him leaving when an entity crossed my path.  A shit entity.  A smell so foul that it was as though he had smeared shit from one end of the guest bathroom to the other!  I literally had to open all the windows and sit on the terrace for an hour before the house had been cleared of the putrid smell!  I still haven’t gone in there either.  I’m a little scared of what I might find that he left behind for me.  I’ll send The Turk in to take the bullet.

Sorry for lumbering all this on you all.  I don’t know when I’ll be back.  But I will.  Eventually.

Ugh!

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No Winter Blues

When we lived in Oz we always arranged our holiday to Mersin during September.  It was still deliciously warm but there was that cool breeze that soothed the rocking hell-fire that usually descends on the province during August (which has been known to send even me a little deli).  Winters, on the other hand, were a non-starter, no way I was skipping my summer in Sydney for the grey backdrop that would no doubt be Mersin during December or January.

Now that I live here I realise that that was my loss because while Mersin in the heat of summer no doubt rocks, it’s also got some pretty cool moves in the dead of winter as well.

Mersin snow

Falling temperatures sprinkle new magic on the small villages in the mountains and the medieval kalesi (castles) along the Mersin coastline and although I have not done much in the way of exploring thanks to my bung knee this winter I can say that over the years the chill brings a moody new perspective to the province.

snow in mersin 2

Daughter and I did zip up into the mountains a few times this winter and while the city of Mersin or our little village may be grey the Toros Mountains were gloriously sunshiny.  We took My Hurley Dog for a doggy snow day as Daughter had recently seen a video with dogs having a sensational time frolicking in white stuff but, of course, our asshole dog hated every moment of it.  He did, however, manage to find the carcass of some poor animal in the snow and try to drag it back to the car – I swear that dog disgusts me sometimes.

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With a smattering of snow the traditional Turkish villages are so enticing that a trek through the lower hills of the mountain range is something not to be missed.  Oh and for those of you who actually want to attach those silly wooden planks to your feet Kayseri is only 3 hours away with 8 lifts and no doubt more than enough apres-ski nightlife to suit everyone.

The coastline takes on a new role as well.  The beaches are still pristine but now they are empty.  Surprisingly the water isn’t icy either.  I mean I wouldn’t swim to Cyprus or anything but a paddle is pleasant enough.

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One of the bonuses during winter is it is much easier to visit the ruins (without self-combusting in the heat) although my most recent visit to Kizkalesi was a bust when there was no transfer to the castle nor where any restaurants open – at all.  Regardless I love the ruins and I have been known to lose myself for hours while exploring the many antiquities that dot the coastline and winter allows me to continue my exploration without breaking a sweat.

Winter also has salep, which is a mix of hot mastic milk, sugar, and flour made from orchid tubers served with cinnamon.  Sold from street carts in the old part of the city you can enjoy your salep alongside a paper bag stuffed with kestane kebap (freshly roasted chestnuts), also purchased from street carts.

Today The Turk and I are off to Sarniç, a village 15 minutes outside of the city.  I’ve visited there so many times that he is beginning to question whether I’m having an affair with a local goat herder so today we will go together for lunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary (see we still adore each other – sometimes).  There is a fantastic lokanta on the main road that serves traditional Turkish food (the sucuk hummus is to die for) while you warm your weary bones by a roaring fire.  Yet another great reason to visit Mersin in winter I think.

sarnic-2

I mean if you really need another reason that is …

Disclaimer: my expat friend who lives up in the Yayla would not agree with anything said in this post.  She has had enough of the snow.  She (and her recently Home Alone kedi) wishes that the snow would feck off!

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A New Beginning

I promised I would be back in the New Year fresh and with lots more drama about surviving life in my Türk köyü (Turkish village).  I was kind of hoping to start 2017 on a happy note with stories about Christmas parties and New Year’s celebrations and jolly old St. Nick coming to visit us here in Mersin but that had been hijacked by the terrorist attack in Istanbul in the early hours of the morning on 1 January 2017 so I decided to write nothing.

reina

It is clear that I can no longer live in a cocoon ignoring what is happening in my adopted homeland.  It is a hot topic of discussion between the many expats that live here and it seems that there is an exodus happening right now with even lifers packing up and leaving for greener pastures.  I am a lifer.  But I say that with reservations.  I’ve got to.  Again I won’t give an opinion because it is so deeply seeded and there are so many differing views that I will no doubt offend nobody, somebody or everybody *waves again to the Powers That Be*.  I do want to say to my friends and family that I hear your concern and I understand that you are worried but for us, right now and with decisions being made as a family, Türkiye is our love and we cannot abandon her just yet.

So let’s move onto more jovial topics.

I am currently writing this post tonight to the soothing (and rather loud) hum of our very own generator.  Notwithstanding my numerous threats to divorce The Turk if he did not buy me a generator and The Turk’s numerous rebuttals that threatening divorce is more likely to discourage said purchase, he finally opened his wallet, blew away the cobwebs, and made our apartment that bright, beaming light calling out to others in the darkness.  Of course now when the electricity goes our home becomes the place to be with neighbours flocking for warmth, numerous glasses of çay and a place to watch the fecking futbol (which seems to be on all the fecking time!).  So for those of you currently sitting in the darkness with your very own generator envy remember it can be a double edged sword.

flood

I’ve mentioned before that January is Mersin’s wet month.  It rains in January.  A lot.  Actually a lot doesn’t really describe how much rain has fallen here over the past few days.  In fact it was 153kg worth of rain.  Now I’ve got to be honest with you I am not quite sure how they worked out that scientific measurement but that’s the official word.  Yep.  It rained.  Then it flooded.  Then Noah started collecting two of each creature.  And then it became abundantly clear that my new apartment (with aforementioned generator humming away happily) isn’t exactly waterproofed.  Sorry I’ll rephrase that – it became abundantly fecking clear that my new apartment isn’t fecking waterproofed at ALL!  Now that the rain has all but gone (fingers crossed) we have had the builder back who, of course, flat out denied that the water streaming down my wall was due to his shoddy work.  Nooo!  I have now named him The Moose Knuckle and I think it suits him (sidenote: I learned this marvellous expression the other day from a friend and have decided to incorporate it into my daily life).  The Turk has forbidden me from calling him a Moose Knuckle to his face which isnt really a problem because I doubt I could translate it into Türk anyway.  Pfftt!

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Meanwhile where there’s rain there’s snow and we had a Home Alone situation in the mountains behind us over the Christmas period.  One of our friends had entrusted her kedi to be cared for by us expats while she and her husband returned home for the holidays however due to a massive dumping of the white stuff all roads leading to her home were closed to traffic.  Despite desperate attempts to locate anyone who was holed up in the village plus numerous rescue attempts by expats to retrieve the cold, hungry and no doubt pretty peeved kedi all proved unsuccessful.  Kedi was Home Alone.  Kedi was McCauley Culkin protecting his home from Joe Pesci and the other guy.  But don’t fret readers McCauley was finally set free by two expats who, wearing enough equipment to climb Mt Everest, rescued and transported him to luxurious digs where he immediately took possession of the bed forcing rescuer’s husband to the couch.  As it should be.

duman

Oh and finally I want to thank Expatfocus.com for including Janeyinmersin in their Turkey recommended blog list.  Yah!!!

Enough for now.  I have a glass of red and a humming generator.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Iyi akşamlar sevgilerim.

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Expat.com

I recently did an interview with Expat.com about our life living as an expat here in Mersin.  Of course the interview gives my *cough cough* unique spin on life here.  I am certain that the interviewer thought I was quite mad.   You can have a read of the interview here.

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For those of you who don’t know about Expat.com, they are an exchange network dedicated to providing free information and advice to those expats living or wishing to live overseas.  With forums, handy hints and interviews with other expats it’s a great way of finding someone in your neck of the woods.

Anyway I would love to hear your feedback on the interview.  At least let me know if I sound batshit crazy.  The Turk has been discussing buying me a straightjacket.  I have explained that they probably won’t be able to get one in my size.  Winning!

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