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.

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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.

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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).  I have been known to lose myself for hours while exploring the many castles 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Turkiye’s Very Own Polar Vortex

In case you have been living under a rock the past few days social media in Turkiye has been blowing up with both the expats and Turks alike going on about the crazy cold weather we are having right now.  Soğuk, çok soğuk! (It’s cold, very cold!). Talk about “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, Turkiye goes and freezes over just to be like their fancy neighbours.

All over the country the weather has been abysmal.  Villages and towns have been snowed in, flights cancelled and even here in Mersin hell has literally frozen over.  I mean really – it snowed!  I know right!?!

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This shouldn’t happen.  I was only writing here about how hot it was a couple of months back.  This is an extreme turnaround and it really isn’t acceptable to me.

Electricity is scant and this transforms The Turk from his manly man Turkish self into, well, into a bit of a girly princess.  As expected this transformation has also pushed The Turk into his “I want to go back to Australia” phase of his re-entry into Turkish life.  We don’t have a soba here (Turkish fireplace) so when the electricity dies then icicles begin to form over any uncovered appendage.  The Turk is definitely concerned about his favourite appendage freezing and breaking off and has been checking it regularly.  Last night I threatened to move into the Hilton just for a hot bath and internet access (side note – what is it with Turkey not having instantaneous hot water?  Install a fecking Rheem for Christ’s sake!!).  But no I stayed and suffered in silence, well relative silence compared to The Turk that’s for sure!

But it is not just us who are suffering in the cold.  I feel for the stray animals that live in our village.  The kediler are breaking into any house with an open door trying to find a warm spot and I swear I saw a pack of kopekler milling around an open fire on an empty block.  I am not going to say that they started the fire but … it looked very suspicious.  My Hurley Dog is refusing to go outside and when I finally got him outside his pee froze mid-stream!  True!  I swear!!

I know I am ridiculous.

Yesterday was my birthday.  Did you know?  Yah happy birthday and all that!  I made a pretty strong statement on FB the other night saying it might be cold but there’s no way it will snow and certainly not on my birthday.  I will eat my hat.  Well as I was reminded by a well-wisher yesterday that it did in fact snow – soooo – would I like fries with that hat?  Humfph!  The Turk also reminded me of my wording off this morning and handed me his beanie and the salt and pepper shakers.  I didn’t eat it as that was his hat.  I agreed to eat mine.  Technicality?  Yep but I am going with it.

So happy birthday to me – and welcome to the Ice Age!  Bbrrrr!

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Weather Update

As you all know I have been keeping you abreast of the lack of rain in Mersin.  I think at last check it was 4 rainy days in 138 days.  That’s a lot of sunny days!  Anyhow, Daughter and I went to Istanbul last weekend for a little holiday and, on the way to Adana, our rain free run came to an end.  Yes it rained.  Daughter was excited.  Me?  I was more concerned about the weather in Istanbul.  I googled it that morning and saw a high of 3 degrees Celsius.  That falls under a huge “Yikes” for me.

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In the six days that Daughter and I were in Istanbul it rained in Mersin – a lot.  There was some localised flooding (not in the Village thankfully) heavy rain and strong winds.  Since our return yesterday it has been sunny and rather pleasant, in fact I managed to get a little pink while sitting on my newly completely (finally) balcony this morning.

And Istanbul?  Yes it was cold.  Really cold in fact.  But despite the zero degrees and the occasional snowflakes that turned the city a dreary grey we had a great week away from Mersin.  Daughter did a lot of shopping (she “discovered” Topshop while wandering down Istiklal Caddesi) and we visited our usual haunts including the Basilica Cistern, Sultan Ahmet Camii and Hagia Sophia.

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Will blog more about Istanbul soon but right now I have a lot of laundry to get on the line.  Just before I sign off I just want to add one more thing.  Away for a week and The Turk is unable to do the washing despite the fact that I have showed him a dozen times how to use the washing machine AND the fact that the instruction manual is in Turkish AND who uses a clean towel every – single – day?  Clean undies – yes – but clean towels???

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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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How Many Turks does it take to change a light bulb?

Last weekend was The Turk’s birthday.  I am not allowed to say just how old he is however Daughter has been known to him a moruk (geezer) so you make a guess.  I looked around the Wonderful World Wide Web for a few historical snippets relating to his birthdate of 7 December to reference in his birthday card but no one really famous – well no one I knew anyway – was born (or died) on 7 December.  7 December has the ominous distinction of being the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour – 7 December 1941 – but this was to be a celebratory day and I do not want to bring down his groove.

There was no chance of a lie in for The Turk on his birthday as the electricity had blown (yet again).  I reset the system again and attempted to put on the heater but it blew almost immediately.  At 7 on Saturday morning it was 4 degrees and with no air con or heater . . . well let me just say it was cold.  So I woke The Turk up to complain and for him to let Hurley out (after all it was way too cold for me and I crawled straight back into bed).  He was very proactive about it though and by 8 am he had left the house to have a shave and to go and track down the electrician who installed our wiring.  I went to buy the bread and when I had returned The Turk had arrived back home freshly shaved and with a boy in tow.

“This is the electrician?” Thank goodness he didn’t speak English although I would think the disbelief in my tone would be clear after all the child standing before me could be no more than 18 years of age (I concede he may be an adult but no way he is an electrician).  The “cocuk (child) electrician” had a long conversation with The Turk and explained that the issue is not with the electrical it is with the air conditioning unit.  Can I holler balderdash?

So most of the morning was spent listening firstly to the cocuk electrician explain why there was nothing wrong with the wiring, and the air con people came and told us that it was the electrical system.  Now I may not Benjamin Franklin but it does not take a fool to tell you there is a problem if you are shorting out 10 times a day!  The cocuk electrician left unsatisfied however promised that his elder brother (who I was guessing is the actual electrician) would return in the afternoon.  The Turk’s birthday was definitely turning into a disaster so before any other calamity presented itself Daughter and I grabbed him and took him into Mersin for a celebratory lunch at Cigeri Apo.

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To truly experience a typical Turkish restaurant in Mersin you cannot get any better than Cigeri Apo.  It specialises in meats cooked over the coals and the menu, although very simple, is delicious.  I was pretty unsure about the choices (The Turk mentioned lung at one stage) so I kept it pretty basic with an order of beef kebap and he ordered unknown meat on the skewer.  Within minutes 5 different salads were delivered to our table along with a glass of Ayran for each of us.  Ayran is a Turkish drink of yogurt, salt and water blended into a thick shake.  Although refreshing on a hot day Ayran tastes pretty good any time of year.

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After a wonderful lunch we wandered down to Ataturk Park and hopped on a harbour cruise that was about to leave.  In hindsight this was probably a mistake as it was freezing on the harbour but it was reasonably short and we were rugged up sufficiently well.  Although the cruise did not leave the harbour it gave us views of the dull city skyline, Luna Park and the Free Trade Zone.

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Returning home the cocuk electrician’s brother arrived and he checked the circuits.  Watching the actual electrician with The Turk I started to wonder whether they would ever get to the bottom of the electrical faults.  Hmmmm.  The Turk said to me later on Saturday evening that watching me trying to control my agitation with the electrician was the best birthday present he could have received (well that and Fenerbache winning their futbol match on Saturday night).

All in all a good day for The Turk.