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.

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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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2016

Will 2016 go down as one of the worst years in history? Is it the year that ‘jumped the shark’?  Is it our annus horribilis? A glance at the news might make you think so.

2016-suckedLast night the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated here in Ankara.  In Berlin, Germany, a truck ploughed through visitors to a Christmas market killing at least 12 and injuring many more.  There was also an attack on a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland.   Meanwhile the carnage continues in Syria with bus conveys sent by humanitarian organisations being attacked while waiting to evacuate families from the war zone in eastern Aleppo.  Oh and the Electoral College just confirmed one of the most unpopular President-elects in US history.  This is just one day.  One shitty day in the year that was 2016.

Here in Turkey 2016 was the year that its citizens endured a failed coup that left more than 300 people dead and over 2000 injured.  Three weeks before that suicide bombers attacked Istanbul Ataturk Airport killing 41 and injuring more than 230 people.  This is just one of over 30 terrorist attacks in Turkey in 2016 (not including rocket attacks being launched from Syria across the border by ISIL militants).

Around the world terrorism raises its ugly head time and time again with attacks in France, Belgium, the United States of America, Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand and Indonesia just to name a few.  Thousands of people have lost their lives with scores more injured all for a cause that was not designed for hate.

2016 was also the year that that the US was supposed to get its first woman President but instead they got a right royal goose.  The UK decided to do a Brexit and exit and NATO is imploding before us.

We saw countries close their borders to refugees all around the world.  The US wants to build a wall.  Europe is showing everyone the door and Australia is treating asylum seekers like prisoners locking them on tiny islands and forgetting about them.

But the Syrian war, now entering its sixth year, is the war that only gets worse.  To date it  has claimed nearly half a million lives and left millions of others devastated.  Men, women and children are trying to escape but have nowhere to go (due to the aforementioned border closures).  There is the stench of death all around.  Needless suffering.  Hospitals are being targeted with barrel bombs and children are being used as human shields.  Right now in eastern Aleppo whole families are being rounded up and executed and all of us have been moved to tears at the sight of children being pulled from the rubble or more recently being operated on in Syrian hospitals without anaesthetic.  Syria is under siege and there is no end in sight with foreign powers – including the US, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – with their own agendas all wanting a piece of the pie.

And we lost Snape.

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So after this annus horribilis, jumping the shark year of bok what do I want for 2017?  Peace.  Just peace.

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I am Ankara

On Sunday night a car bomb exploded in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, killing 32 people and injuring more than 100.

Ankara 1

In February a car bomb exploded in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, killing 28 and injuring more than 61.

Sound familiar?  Let’s keep going.

January 2016 – Istanbul 12 killed and 14 injured.

October 2015 – again in Ankara 102 killed and over 500 injured.

July 2015 – Suruç with 22 killed and 104 injured.

Enough yet?  Are you surprised by the numbers?

Maybe we should put a few faces to those that have lost their lives.

On the right is Deniz.  Deniz lost his life in the bombing in Ankara last October.  On the left is Ozancan who lost his life in the bombing on Sunday night.  Did they deserve to die at the hands of terrorists?

Ankara bombing

This is Elif.  She was 19 years old and going to University.  Why must her family suffer for the belief of another?

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This is Mehmet Emre.  He was 16 when he died on Sunday night.  Why must his family shed tears for their son who was merely waiting for a bus?

Ankara bombing 3

Sunday night’s attack was on a busy street, at a metro hub filled with people young and old enjoying the springtime evening weather.

I will not point fingers or give opinions on what is right and what is wrong with the world.  I will say merely this – no political, cultural, or religious belief is worth the lives of these kids.  Kids with dreams.  Lives with real meaning to those around them.  Families shattered.  Devastation.

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The New Normal

Once again terrorism has raised its ugliness stealing more lives and ruining countless others with this most recent atrocity in Istanbul, Turkey.  My thoughts go out to the families of those who died and to those who were injured in yesterday’s attack.  I wish with all my heart that we didn’t live in such a tumultuous time but we do and we need to take control of how we react to what is going on around us.  Terrorism is rife throughout the world and frankly we need to accept that this is the new norm for all of us.  We all know that fear is a commodity and terrorists are more than prepared to manufacture fear with the help of today’s media. istanbul 3

Right now many of you who were thinking of visiting Turkey are asking the same question, “Is it safe to travel there?”  Yesterday the Turkish Government was quick to respond to the attack by declaring that the bomber was a member of Daesh (IS) and that Turkey will continue the battle against all terrorism until it no longer remains a threat to Turkey or to the world.  That’s great but does it make it any safer for tourists or for those of us living here?

I really love Istanbul.  It is, without doubt, one of the most unique cities in the world.  When Napolean said “if earth was a single state, then Istanbul would be its capital” he summed up how so many of us feel about her (yes to me Istanbul is a ‘her’).  She is a city with over 2500 years of history, culture and traditions.  She is jam packed with amazing landmarks, vibrant nightlife and something new around every corner.  She is truly sensational.  And she should not be passed over because when it comes down to it nowhere is truly safe anymore.

Paris.  Tunisia.  Egypt.  Lebanon.  Sydney.  Hell even San Bernadino in LA.  But it is our response to that fear that will determine our future.  Please don’t turn your back on these amazing places.  Do not let evil win.

Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and savour its magnificent view.  Visit the Pyramids of Gaza or Tunisia’s famous beaches and please – please – come and stand in awe at the grandeur before you in Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul.  Be amazed by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.  Indulge in the heavenly cuisine and be welcomed with open arms by some of the most kindest people you will ever have the pleasure to meet.

There has always been a strong police presence in Istanbul and no doubt security will be beefed up again in the aftermath of this most recent attack.  For those of you travelling to Turkey remember to be safe, be aware (see links below) and be smart but please do not let evil control your future.  Only you can do that.

Travel advice for Australian tourists

Travel advice for UK tourists

Travel advice for US tourists

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I am Human

This morning my heart weeps; the world has again been struck by tragedy. Over 150 victims killed in six separate terrorist attacks in and around Paris, France with IS apparently taking responsibility for these attacks.

Paris

As you all know I live in a country that is 98% Muslim.  Most Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people with their own set of dreams and problems and should be treated with the same respect we give to any other fellow human being.  I live in a real community where love and support is evident wherever you go.  These are not people bred with hatred.

What many of you may not have known (due mainly to the fact that news coverage was nearly non-existent in other countries) is that only yesterday there was two suicide bombings attributed to IS killing 43 people in Beirut.  Another incident in Baghdad with 18 victims.  Türkiye also recently suffered at the hands of IS with an attack that killed nearly 100 people and injured over 400 more at a peace rally in Ankara.  I chose not to write about that terrorist attack in an attempt to fill my feed with only positive stories but I guess I can’t keep myself quiet today.  These attacks are not solely being directed at you or at me.  These attacks by IS are indiscriminate.  We are all targets – Muslim, Christian or other.

Today my social media newsfeed is filled with putrid spewings of hatred from people who I have long considered friends.  I have been shocked by some of the statements made.  Do you feel that way about all Muslims?  What about The Turk?  Do you feel that way about him as well?  Should he be vilified for his religion.  Of course not.  To one particular person who wrote on their Facebook that “all terrorists are Muslim” I say this to you – hate is born by people exactly like you.  You are no better than a terrorist with your rabid hatred.

Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse, or driving force, for some of the worst atrocities imaginable. From pre-history to modern history, religion is, for many people, just an excuse to kill other people. Not post 9/11.  We can go throughout history and talk of religious atrocities.  I shall name a few although honestly I shouldn’t need to.  We all learnt about them at school.  Does the Inquisition ring a bell to you?  How about those witch hunts in Massachusetts?  All about religion.  Let’s go further back in history to Roman times with Nero persecuting all Christians.  And what about Jesus?  He was persecuted for his religion as well.  Maybe we should consider the Aztecs who killed tens of thousands a year to appease the Gods.  I could continue but I won’t.

Your religion (if you have one) is only one part of who you are.  I cannot understand why we have so much hatred and violence.  The perception that people of one nationality, political affiliation, religion, or colour of skin are more superior or inferior than another. We are one people. We are all humans trying to get through this thing called LIFE. It is hard, unfair, and trying – but we all deserve a chance to live it. No one’s life should be taken by another for any reason. No one’s life is more valuable than another’s.

To those in Paris, and those affected by this horrible massacre, my thoughts are with you today.

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CSI Cyber – Turkish Edition

I have now watched a couple of episodes of this new CSI show and I think I am more than qualified to investigate “the Great Turkish Blackout of 2015”.

After lengthy investigation I have 3 main suspects:

  1. A terrorist plot. Who could it be?  Bilmiyorum.
  2. A pimply faced 12 year old boy trying to obtain the schematics of NASA’s space station for his bedroom wall … oh wait wrong program.
  3. Türkiye forgot to pay the electric bill – most likely.

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Here’s what I know.

I went into the city yesterday to meet some friends for lunch.  There was no electricity in the village.  I shrug my shoulders (there is never any electricity in the village).  As I reached Çarşı there is no electricity there either.  Oh well.  I catch my next dolmuş and continue through Mersin.  Pozcu – no electricity.   At this point I am like “Woah all of Mersin!  Sucked in!”.  As I reached Mezitli and my destination and there was still no electricity I realised “damn lunch is going to be cancelled” but no – bless Mersin Marina for their own electricity supply!

Lunch was lovely.  I drank too much and got too much sun.  I suffer for that now.

One friend from Adana told me her electricity was out too.  “How funny is that?  Two cities, no electricity”.

I finally got home completely sloshed and feeling no pain but there was still no bloody electricity.  The Turk informed me that the electricity was, in fact, out all over Turkey including Istanbul and Ankara and that it was a terrorist plot or a military coup.  My first thought was “Yikes”.  My second thought “that movie War Games”.  Do you know the one?  Matthew Broderick starred in it, like, 50 years ago or something, and he nearly started WWIII with the click of a mouse button.  Someone should check the whereabouts of Matthew Broderick.

Officially Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said all possible causes were under investigation “including terrorism”.  Conveniently enough President Erdogan was out of the country as was the Electricity Minister.

It has suggested to me that it was an April Fools joke.  That’s seems to be a pretty elaborate joke, well done to you, however check your calendar before you pull a prank you goose!

We finally got our electric back but not before The Turk suggested we make our own – bada bing bada boom.  Daughter said that the electrical outage was “a current event”.  You see we are all fecking comedians in this household!

My CSI investigation is still underway so keep checking back for when I finally arrest my suspect.  It will be exciting.  Seriously though, if Turkiye did forget to pay the electric bill someone should diarise this shit because it was bloody inconvenient yesterday.

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Turkey Today

Over the past few days I have had no end of calls from worried friends wanting to know how safe it is in Turkey at the moment.  Yes there is anger and frustration in the streets of many cities.  Thousands of Kurdish people are protesting across the country including in its capital Ankara and Istanbul.  They are furious that Turkey seems to be standing by as Islamic State advances on the Syrian town of Kobane.  They say that Turkey’s failure to help the Kurdish fighters there will no doubt lead to the city falling to IS.

I have learned from writing this blog to keep my opinions to myself as I do not have sufficient knowledge or education on the complicated relationship between Turkey and the Kurdish people.  I will only say that Turkey is in an extremely difficult situation.  They are, of course, a powerhouse in the region and they will vigorously protect their land and their citizens (including their Kurdish citizens).  Should Turkey cross the border into Syria they are entering foreign soil and crossing that border would be considered a hostile act by Syria.  Should a Syrian or Kurdish citizen be injured or killed at the hands of a Turkish soldier then I suspect all hell will break loose.  Turkey also has the underlining concern of keeping peace within its Kurdish communities which can prove a difficult task particularly when Erdogan is comparing the PKK to IS.

The Australian Government has today emailed its citizens living or visiting Turkey and have advised against all travel to the towns of Akcakale and Ceylanpinar.  They have also advised against all but essential travel to areas within 50km of Turkey’s border with Syria.  You should remember that each countries give their citizens their own advice with the UK Foreign Office advising against all but essential travels within 10km of Turkey’s border with Syria.

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Friends, where we are in Mersin it is perfectly safe right now.  We are approximately 4-5 hours drive from the Syrian border.  There have been no protests however there is a heavy polis presence in the city.  If I feel in any way that the situation has changed or that Daughter and I are no longer safe here we will make arrangements to leave the city and, if necessary, the country immediately.

Remember if you intend on travelling to Turkey in the coming days I suggest that you check with your own Foreign Office.  If you are travelling to Marmaris or along the western coast of Turkey you are 12 hours – I repeat – 12 hours from the Syrian border.  Of course your personal safety and the safety of your family is paramount but do not let the remote possibility of terrorism by Islamic State (or by any other terrorist organisation) control your lives.

If you are interested in reading more about what is going on – here are a few links that I found interesting.

4 Questions  /  The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk  /  Smart Traveller  /  UK Advice  /  Ankara on Alert

Please share this page to your family members who are concerned about safety while travelling or living in this beautiful country.

Finally I will add that Turkey is one of the most amazing countries in the world with its magnificent beaches, glorious scenery and its surprising history.  The Turkish Government will do everything in its power to control the situation along its borders and to protect its citizens and its visitors – that means you!

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