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.

hurley-snow-3

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.

kizkalesi-winter-4

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.

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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But Did You Die?

Daughter has gone back to school this week.  She is in Year 8 and, as she will have her TEOG this year (the TEOG exam which will decide which high school they can attend), there are extra lessons to help them prepare.  She is, of course, spitting a rather large dummy in every direction because it’s a daily onslaught of 4 lessons of science and 4 lessons of math.  Her two worst subjects (except for din (religion) but we have had her removed from that class).

So with Daughter back at school it means I am doing the daily drop off and pick up again and I’ve got to tell you these fecking Turkish driver’s are doing my fecking head in.  I have decided that Turkish driver’s are so full of their own self-importance that they believe they are the only fecking drivers on the road.  Get out of their fecking way.  They are like a fecking bulldozer and they are coming through!  Of course they know how to drive and I know shit!  You know shit too but don’t take it personally.

driving-in-turkey-distorted

Look, my friend — there are two kinds of drivers in Turkey.  First there’s the stupid ones — and then there’s the crazy ones

I am over driving defensively.  I am over giving way, using my indicators, stopping at red lights and keeping to the speed limit.  I have my kimlik damn it!!  I’m Turkish I say and so I will start to drive like a lunatic … so I will fit right in with the rest of them!

And like probably 90% of the driver’s on a Turkish road I don’t actually have a Turkish driver’s licence.  I have my Australian driver’s licence but from 1 January 2016 an Australian must obtain a Turkish driver’s licence as Australia is one of the few countries that have not signed the international treaty (we are governed by our States).  If you’re an Aussie and have not got a Turkish driver’s licence your only option (right now) is to leave the country every six months to get a new stamp in your passport.  I’m all over that idea and, despite the fact that I only just got back from Down Under, I’m already online checking out my options for a weekend in Europe in January.  I’m thinking snow covered mountains, cozy fires, mulled wine, Brad Pitt. Oh right.  Okay.

Did you know that in Australia you need 100 hours of practice driving and lessons.  Getting your driver’s licence in Australia takes years.  FECKING YEARS!  Here I dunno but what I do know that if a Turkish driver sees a red light it inspires insanity in them.  It’s a red flag and bull situation and no one ever really wins that do they?

And while I’m on my high horse – feck my life – the fecking pedestrians!!  I swear they step out right in front of you, obviously with big old blinders on their eyes and waddle through six lanes of traffic without a fecking care in the world while you slam on your brakes, smelling the burning rubber of your tyres as you slide sideways, your airbag exploding in your face and you nearly having a freaking heart attack while they throw you the evil eye for honking at them!  And no teşekkür ederim or sağol.  No fecking way!  Just the evil side-eye.

And seeing as I have already climbed into that big saddle one more thing!  There is a small home decoration shop at the end of our street and there is a woman that ‘works’ there.  I use the term loosely because, let’s be honest, despite the fact that everybody in the village may need a home decorator there are few in the village who could actually afford one.  Anyway Little Miss Home Decorator has a lot of freaking attitude.  She spends her day sitting on a chair on the small terrace chatting with all the neighbours (including Vito’s wife whom I still haven’t spoken to since this incident back in May) but if the sun gets a little too intense she has taken to putting her chair on the road under the shade of the building and so, when I (or anyone else for that matter) turn right onto our street there she is sitting in the middle of the road enjoying her çay without a fecking care in the world while you slide sideways on the gravel to miss her sorry ass.  Get out of the way biatch!  And God forbid if you ask her to move she stares at you with that blank death stare that all these crazies around here have although no doubt she gives me that look because Vito’s wife would have told her all about ‘the incident’ and what a bloody awful yabancı I am and do you know what?  I’m really okay about that.  I really am.

Meanwhile The Turk thinks that if you survive driving on a Turkish road any day then it is a good day.  If you survived any near miss while dodging pedestrians, bike riders, cars, trucks, horses, dogs, cats, goats, chickens or anything else then buy yourself a lottery ticket ‘cause you are having a fecking great day!

 

Burası Türkiye!

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Banged Up Abroad – Janey Edition

I was watching Banged Up Abroad last night with Daughter and The Turk.  Definitely showing my old age I shook my head and tut-tutted in various points throughout the show as ridiculous stories were told by hapless tourists or morons trying to make a quick buck.  I mean we had all been there (or maybe not) but if we were all honest with ourselves we’ve done things that, perhaps on reflection, may not have been the most sensible thing to do while travelling.  You know you’ve done it too, maybe ending up on the wrong side of the law, ending up with a hellish hangover or, in my case, ending up pregnant to a Turkish fisherman.

Bangedup

After it had finished I turned to The Turk and piped up, “You know I bungy jumped while on holidays in Zimbabwe.  Did you know that?”  His reply was, as usual, full of wise rhetoric, “that must have been one big-ass elastic band”  while Daughter rolled her eyes and replied with a snarky, “You’ve never done anything remotely dangerous – or interesting – in your entire life!  You are boring!”  Challenge accepted!!

And so in no particular order I give you “Banged Up Abroad – Janey Edition”:

Canoeing through a herd of hippos in Botswana.  Did you know that hippopotamus are responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal?  No I didn’t know either.  I do now.

Smoking some weird shit in Nepal.  My entire trip through India and Nepal was full of crazy but this incident definitely came in at no. 1.  On our first day in Kathmandu my friend and I hopped a rickshaw that was kismet-ly waiting right outside our hostel.  The rickshaw driver was very friendly and before we knew it we were sitting on a hilltop being blown away by the beauty of the Himalayan Mountains before us (with a little glimpse of Mt Everest through the clouds).  Our driver then pulled out a rollie and offered us the first toke. Twenty minutes later we woke, totally dishevelled, robbed of our belongings and abandoned on that hilltop.  Luckily neither of us had anything of value on us (as we had dumped everything at the hotel) and thankfully we were not assaulted but it was a valuable lesson learned.  Don’t smoke strange shit handed to you by randoms in Nepal folks!

How about paying off a border patrol with two packets of my precious B&H Extra Mild and a bottle of whiskey trying to enter Zambia?  I was not happy about the loss of my cigarettes let me tell you but it was better than being left behind at the border!

And speaking of border problems we ‘misplaced’ a friend in Israel while trying to cross from a Palestinian checkpoint.  Six hours later he was delivered back to our hotel in Jerusalem a little shaky but happy to re-live his story for us over and over again (and still to this day he will tell the story … over and over again).

Jet skiing through a cyclone in Cancun.  In our defence none of us knew it was actually a cyclone.  Maybe it wasnt a cyclone, maybe it was a tropical storm.  I mean sure there was wind, there was black clouds and there was a really big swell but, honestly, I’ve seen worse at Manly beach during a summer storm.  I did question about whether we should start making our way back but no one else seemed perturbed by the strength of the wind or the very black skies.  By the time we got back to shore and saw the damage that had been done we realised the danger.  At least I realised the danger.

The gift that keeps on giving.  Whilst camping on the banks of Lake Malawi and ignoring the clear advice given to me by my Doctor back home in Australia, I and the rest of our group swam in the beautiful clear waters of the Lake at Cape Maclear.  Three months later I was diagnosed with Schistosomiasis or Bilharzia.  Google it people and a word of advice – don’t swim in Lake Malawi!

I have also been mugged in NY city, slept under the stars in Jordan (and was unceremoniously dumped in the desert by our tour guide the next morning), hitched a ride with some very dodgy dudes that were packing heat in Egypt (although I suspect everyone packs heat in Egypt) and was nearly sold off to a village chief in Tanzania.  Oh, and finally, getting pregnant to a Turkish fisherman.  Have I mentioned that one already?

We all love a little adventure, after all it makes a great story when we get home, but none of us want to find ourselves in Bangkok Hilton or perhaps worse dead on the side of the road (or death by firing squad).  Safety first folks!  I glanced at Daughter and wondered what type of crap she would get up to while travelling the world.  She is already talking about her “Gap Year” and the places that she wants to go with her friends.  Brazil, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Kenya.  Good God!  I can already see a “Banged Up Abroad – Daughter Edition” in my future!  Nope, I am locking her in her room.

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Shiny New Expat

I met a straight off the plane, never taken out of the package, New Expat recently.  So new that she had that new car smell.  Her excitement was palpable but, unlike a case of the measles, it was not contagious and I found myself talking down the same things that I talked up when I first settled here in Mersin.

new expat

New Expat spoke of her love for her husband’s close knit family.  I found myself rolling my eyes and suggesting she should find an apartment as far away as she could get from her new extended family unless she wants them on her doorstep all day, every day.

As New Expat made cay (successfully I might add) she spoke of the more relaxed Turkish way of life.  I laughed and suggested she take a trip to the Emniyet and then let me know how she feels.

For lunch New Expat put out an impressive Turkish spread.  She explained that she had taken Turkish cooking lessons back in the UK so she could impress the in-laws.  I suggested that she might like to join a few of us for lunch at Marina in the coming weeks where we all go for our European food fix.  Her reply?  “I could eat that back at home.  I am here to eat Turkish food.”  Inwardly I groaned.  Every day.  Every day.  Every day.  Here Turkish food is just food.  Every day.

By the time I left New Expat’s shiny new home I felt like a Dementor sucking all the New Expat happiness out of her.  Will I ever see New Expat again?  Doubtful as she is probably still trying to erase my unintentional but still horrid behaviour from her memory.

Yes I have lost that glow of a new expat and what were at first little irritations are now an open sore that needs treatment – STAT!

And it is not just me that feels that stench of a jaded old expat (do we have a stench?).  One of the first people I met here when I arrived in Mersin was a school teacher from Northern Ireland who was working at one of the private schools here.  Her excitement about living in this city synced with mine and we threw ourselves into our new lives, a little scared, quite naïve but ready for a little madness.  Well that school teacher is counting down the days until the end of term.  She has had enough and is leaving Mersin to return home to Northern Ireland, happy to close the door on her time here.  Crazy Mersin has broken her.  Will she come back to Turkiye?  Yes.  Will she come back to Mersin.  Doubtful.

Yet other expats are long termers, going on 15 plus years.  Right now, today, I cannot fathom the idea of being here for another 15 years.  Please God not that long but as The Turk put it – where would you go?  Back to Australia the land of my peeps?  Yes, please, but of course I can no longer afford to live in Sydney and I certainly don’t want to return to 50 hour weeks so I would probably have to move elsewhere.  But where?  And I would be starting again.  House.  Job.  Friends.  I would be an expat in my own country.

So my question to you today is how do you keep that new car freshness living in a city that has more problems than solutions, where your opinion matters little other than perhaps an amusing anecdote to the locals?  Do you have any advice for this miserable expat? Let me know ‘cause I really need some wise words.

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Heaven and Hell

Daughter and I recently did a long weekend road trip.  4 days of driving with no real destination in mind so the next few posts will no doubt be giving you some of the highlights of our trip.

Originally we were heading towards Goreme to go ballooning but a last minute decision was made to go west as it was hot and Daughter wanted to swim so we started driving west towards Alayna going via Kizkalesi, Narlikuyu, Silifke and finally ending our road trip in Yesilovacik also known as “literally the middle of nowhere”.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

Just past Kizkalesi is a small tourist sign – Cennet ve Cehennem (Heaven and Hell).

“Oh let’s go check out the caves”, she said.  “It’ll be fun”, she said.  Well SHE needs a kick up the ass and by SHE I mean ME because it was MY silly idea.

Cennet ve Cehennem are actually two large sinkholes and, as someone who knows little about sinkholes I’ve got to say, they are pretty huge.  I mean I have seen sinkholes on television where houses are swallowed up in Florida or that big one somewhere in Mexico (I think) that took out a whole neighbourhood.  They seem to be popping up everywhere these days thanks to fracking and all sorts of other less than stellar reasons but Cennet and Cehennem are natural sinkholes that have been there for thousands of years.

hell alyssa

We started off walking to Cehennem because Hell seems more likely in my future.  It is only a 5 minute walk up a small incline.  A pleasant walk on a pleasant spring day.  The sinkhole itself is masterful and Mother Nature has definitely outdone herself.  The opening is small but has a depth of 128 metres.  I felt quite nauseous standing on the edge but Daughter being Daughter threw her legs over the side to take a photo to message to The Turk (just to “freak him out”).  Don’t worry though there is a barrier around the edge – you are quite safe.

Interesting titbit – according to mythology, after Zeus defeated the hundred-headed dragon named Typhon he kept him in Hell for a while before imprisoning him under Mt Etna.  Good to know.

After visiting Hell we started off towards Heaven.  After the first 50 or so steps we passed a group making their way back up.  A mixed bunch but the one thing they all had in common was that they were all bright red from exertion.  As they puffed past me I murmured geçmiş olsun (get well soon).  I got a wave and a groan – it was clear they were all too exhausted to speak (or couldn’t get their breath).  Crap!  What am I doing?

Daughter ran off ahead leaving me to waddle along at my own pace.  By the time I reached the small chapel (at about 300 steps) it was clear that I was in over my head (literally because I must have been about 100 metres down the sinkhole at this point).  I started wondering whether they could airlift my body out of here or maybe some kind of winch system set up behind the scenes because I didn’t know how I was going to drag my ass up all these stairs.

heaven 7

The chapel itself was apparently built by a believer by the name of Paulus in the 5th or 6th century.  You really have got to give credit where credit is due.  Paulus must have had some major love for Saint Mary because he would have had to carry those stone blocks down the 300+ stairs to get to the landing.  Kudo’s to you Paulus.

We continued past the chapel to reach the mouth of the cave.  This climb is a little tricky now as the as the stone stairs were quite slippery from precipitation.  The cave itself was a lot cooler and quite a reprieve on a hot day.  Daughter ran off attempting to reach the back of the cave to find the source of the stream that we could hear however that proved to be impossible while I chose to sit on a rock and contemplate my new life in the cave (because like I said I was pretty sure I would never be able to drag myself back out of the sinkhole).

heaven over it

After spending 30 minutes of exploring the cave it was time to leave.  Standing at the mouth and looking up, well I’ve got to be honest, it was going to be a monumental task.  All up there is 452 stairs to reach the top!  452 stairs!  But I did it and without the need of the imaginary winch too.  We passed a group on their way down and, seeing my red faced and fatigued self, said “geçmiş olsun”.  I groaned and waved while Daughter continued to jog up the stairs (sometimes I hate that kid).

Heaven 9

Now in future when I get a hair brain idea like visiting caves anywhere I will make sure I do a little research first and it will go a little something like this:

Janey:  Is there 450+ stairs in my foreseeable future?

Janey:  Umm … yep.

Janey:  Feck my life!

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Need to know:

Cennet ve Cehennem is off the D400 at Narlikuyu.  There are no buses to the site itself so you will need to either drive or walk.

Entry fee is 10TL (5TL per cave).  Asthma Cave is 3TL.  Toilets are 1TL.  Parking is free.  There is the possibility of a camel ride around the carpark at a negotiated price.

There is a café at the top of Heaven as well as a few tourist shops.  There are many lokantalar along the road up to the caves serving typical Turkish food.

Oh and take water.  Lots of water!

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The Loco Lodos

It was a Lodos weekend in Istanbul, with the strong, dusty winds from Africa howling up the Bosphorus, sending waves crashing over the shore and forcing the locals indoors to save themselves almost certain doom.

istanbul winds 3

Like the better known Sirocco or Mistral winds when the Lodos hits with its 90+ kilometre gusts it causes chaos with flights and ferries cancelled as well as numerous car accidents and untold damage to homes and businesses.  Despite the Lodos coming to ruin our fun Daughter and I are hardened Aussies used to some tough weather and really a little breeze wasn’t going to stop us from heading to our first stop, Galata Tower, for the best view over Istanbul.

After climbing one of the seven hills of Istanbul (warn me next time) we then had the pleasure of climbing another two flights of stairs (after catching a lift the first 5 flights) before arriving at the conical cap of Galata Tower.  At the top is a café which was packed with tourists milling about waiting for someone to take the plunge and step out into the lodos.  Daughter didn’t hestitate and threw open the door letting the howling wind into the café and sending shrieks from the café workers to “kapıyı kapattı!” (shut the door!).

I can see why this building served as a watchtower as you really did have an amazing 360 degree view of Istanbul.  No one was going to take Constantinople with this bad boy watching over it (well not until the Ottomans finally did in 1453 anyway).

Daughter and I held onto the fence as we made our way around the tower.  It really was a crazy wind – a loco lodos if you will.  Soon we were followed by others braving the loco lodos all of us laughing and yelling into the wind, daring it if you will to push us around.

istanbul winds

After surviving our first stop it was clear that the lodos was not going to beat us and so, soldiering on we made our way down to the Bosphorus and jumped on what seemed to be the only ferry prepared to leave Kadıköy dock for a three hour cruise.  Well let me tell you Gilligan had it easy compared to what we went through over the next couple of hours.  The boat was really rocking and I now understand why all the sensible captains stayed safely on shore.

istanbul winds 2

The Turkish poet, Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan, opens his poem “Istanbul Light” with the verses:

Istanbul, the wind

The wind, my love

Sometimes lodos blows from the seas

Oh so warm

Sometimes poyraz blows like a crazed razor

Let your hair down for the windows of Istanbul

You can’t be without love or the wind in this city.

Well I may have survived a Loco Lodos but I’m not sure if I want to meet the “crazed razor” of a Poyraz wind.  Until next time.

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Paradise Found

One of the great things about Mersin (or Icel) is that it is not usually on the international tourism wish list.  I get it.  I really do.  It is an industrial and farming province.  There is no airport and frankly no one speaks English.  It is kind of cosmopolitan and unique but its lack of infrastructure, its occasional domestic issues and now its proximity to unstable borders means that it is not really a draw card for visitors.  After all why come to Mersin when you can go to Marmaris or perhaps Bodrum for your sunfilled vacation?

For those of us living here though it is a godsend that the international tourist passes us by.  Why?  Well if you, the international tourist, go elsewhere it means that the hidden gems found along this magnificent coastline are left for the Turkish tourists which means – Turkish prices!

During Kurban Bayram the family and I travelled to Yaprakli Koy Susanoğlu and I honestly I feel like I have truly found my new favourite spot in IcelSusanoğlu actually is part of the seaside town of Atakent, 65 kilometres west of Mersin and only 15 kilometres east of Silifke.

susanoglu

Susanoğlu Playa itself is a nice enough beach but there is more to Susanoglu than the main beach.  You don’t want the main beach.  You need to keep looking.  If you blink you will miss it for it is not on the main drag.  It is a secret after all, locals only, and they are not going to give up its location to a yabanci readily.  You are going to have to work for it.  You will need to park your car.  You will need to stalk a Turk (as no doubt they know where to go) but, with perseverance and a little good fortune, you will come across some ancient stone stairs on the side of a cliff (not as daunting as it may sound) leading through a smallish little forest.  Through the pine trees you go until you get a glimpse of that perfect mavi (blue) sea.  Step towards that colour and know that, finally, you have arrived at Yaprakli Koy Susanoğlu, a hidden gem along the coastline surrounded by Turkish beach clubs and restoranlar.DSC00437

This place bay has the feel of a party all day long.  Families gather for picnics, girls sunbath in their itsy-bitsy bikinis while watching the boys prance by showing off their muscles.  Old Turkish men do calisthenics on the rocks before making their way to the nearest lokanta for a glass of raki (medicinal I am sure). The surrounding restaurants sell simple Turkish food, but simple can at times be extraordinary with amazing balik, kofte and tavuk dishes on offer for the low non-touristy price of 10TL.  Even more importantly the drinks too are ridiculously cheap and the Efes’ are ice cold.  The music is blasting and it is always Turkish.

susanoglu 2

No one, I repeat, no one speaks English and you will no doubt find yourself, as I did, sitting next to 70 year old Turkish lady who told me her life story.  Sure you may not understand what they are saying but they will still talk to you anyway.

I think I have found my incredibly cheap but now not so secretive paradise.

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As easy as “bir, iki, üç”

With Daughter now back at the village school and with The Turk in the Land Down Under I find that some spare time on my hands.  What to do?  What to do?  I could lie in the sunshine and work on my tan?  Or I could go for lunch at the Marina or Forum with friends?  Nah.  I need to do something constructive with my free time and so I decided on having some private Turkish lessons with Daughter’s Turkish tutor.

Daughter’s tutor is a cousin of a cousin of a cousin or something and is absolutely a delight.  She was recommended to us by an English teacher from one of the private schools in Mersin but we seriously hit the payload when we realised that she was related and not just some random teacher.  Bonus!  Her enthusiasm to teach Daughter has made it a breeze for her to pick up the language and Daughter loves her because she is young, beautiful and funky.  She and Daughter bonded over their mutual love of Starbucks and shopping!  If only all teachers could be Ipek!

I admit that hang my head in shame knowing that I have been in the country for over a year and my Turkish is still ridiculously bad.  I had every intention of enrolling at Mersin University and taking Turkish classes (also a great way to meet other expats) but the idea of making my way on two buses at the crack of dawn 4 days a week did not inspire me to learn.  I had also assumed that immersing in the language would mean that I would pick up the skills in no time.  Yep.  Nope.  I just did not realise it was going to be quite so hard.

alfabex

Ummm …

In just one lesson I have learned that half of what comes out of my mouth is complete gibberish and it explains why Daughter gets so darn embarrassed when I attempt to speak in public.  We end up coming to blows most of the time because she is embarrassed by me and I am annoyed at her attitude in return.  Last weekend we were on the dolmus and usually I leave it to Daughter to ask them to pull over but I thought I would have a go and ask the driver myself.  “Musait bir yer“.  I sounded great.  Well I thought I sounded great anyway.  Daughter said I sounded like I was speaking an Alien language and now, after my first lesson with Ipek, I realise I was speaking an Alien language.  I sounded like a dead set goose. Incidentally musait bir yer does not say “stop the bus” or “let me off” it translates literally to “suitable a place”.  Can you see why I am having difficulties.  Who talks like that (other than Yoda and Google translate).

I survived my first lesson by learning my alfabe (alphabet). “A, B, C’s” although I now know it is not “aye, bee, see” it is in fact “ah, be, je”.

Right, so back to kindergarten for me.

Romancing the Kebab

Saturday night.  You’ve been out clubbing until late and you’re hungry.  What do you want?  A kebab!  You race to the nearest kebab shop (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is always a kebab shop) and you order your kebab “with the works”.

Within minutes you are holding your kebab, smothered in chilli sauce (or God forbid BBQ sauce) and you find your mouth filling with saliva in anticipation.  You’re excited.  You know it is going to be the best kebab you have ever had – and it is.

Fast forward to Turkey.  You have arrived in Istanbul, ready for adventure.  There are historical sites, amazing beaches, gorgeous people – and kebabs.  Yes Turkish kebabs.  The real thing.  You make your way to the first lokanta you come across ready to order your first genuine kebab.  With confidence you place your order.  They speak English!  A bonus.  Your table is laden with a basket of bread, a plate of lemon and pickled chilli and a small salad.  Am I going to have to pay for all this stuff?  Um?

Within minutes a plate is placed before you with a smile.  You look at it.  What is it?  It is not a kebab.  It is not what you were expecting.  You try to get the waiter’s attention but he is too busy with customers.

What just happened here?

Heads up folks.  There are a variety of kebabs available to you in Turkey and each one is unique.

sis kebab

You’ve got the Şiş kebab.  This was what I received the first time I ordered a kebab in Turkey.  Large cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled over charcoal.  Usually served with grilled domates and biber.  Just a warning for you though, keep your wits about you when ordering.  If you are not sure check because instead of siğir eti (beef) or piliç (chicken) you may just end up with offal as your meat of choice and nobody wants that to happen.

iskander kebab

Then there is the iskander kebab.  It’s got the shredded meat (beef or chicken) but the bread is also shredded.  What?  You might get a side dish of rice and a fresh salad but there will also be yogurt involved and a smothering of butter.  Delicious but again … what?

adana kebab

My absolute favourite is an Adana kebab.  I love this kebab because it is hellishly hot.  Minced meat on a skewer and with some crazy hot spices it is also grilled over the charcoal.  Definitely served with pita bread, salad and I suggest a cold glass of ayran to help you digest or you will be a puddle of sweat by the end of the dish.

But we are still trying to find that elusive kebab.  You know the one that you have after a night out at home.

“Help me Janey,” you cry fearful of your next meal.

“Fear not gentle traveller.  Go forth and get yourself a doner kebab.”

doner

Usually beef, lamb or chicken the doner kebab is slow roasted on a vertical rolling spit.  The Turkish doner kebab was invented in Bursa by a cook named Haci in the 19th century.  The man was quite obviously a genius but not so much of a genius that he put a copyright on his invention.  Nope.  He probably died a pauper.

Your doner kebab will consist of shredded pieces of meat wrapped in flat bread.  You will no doubt also find tomato, onion with sumac and a pickled chilli or two.

Just don’t ask them for BBQ sauce.

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The Inquisition

I currently have a two tier problem here in Mersin.  My second problem stems from my first problem not being finalised.

Welcome

When The Turk arrived in Mersin late last year we immediately lodged documentation pertaining to my citizenship application.  There was a lot of trips to various Government offices,  more perilous than trekking across the Sahara Desert or more difficult than reaching the summit of Everest.  There was a lot of paperwork including – current passport (easy), medical certificate (bir şey olmaz – no problem), 4 passport photos (heads up peeps you should always have at least a dozen passport photos on hand – you will go through them like tissues), completed application (done), marriage certificate (translated into Turkish of course), confirmation of residency (hello I am here thus I am a resident) and the doozy – Certificate of ability to speak Turkish (WHAT????).  That last one I thought we had gotten away with as The Turk and I had been called in for an interview at the Emniyet a couple of weeks after lodgment of the documents.  The interviewer asked a few very simple questions and I answered with a yes or no (evet / yok).  I was then fingerprinted, they did a police check (they never did find out about that international jewel heist I was involved with – shush) and they arrived unannounced at our home to ensure that The Turk and I were in a real relationship.  They found me sitting out the front on the road in my pajamas waiting for My Hurley Dog to do a poop.  You don’t get any more real than that folks!

Fast forward to last week and I began hassling The Turk that we should chase up my citizenship before he disappears to Sydney next month.  Good idea!  We arrived at the Emniyet to find that nothing had been done to move my application forward since last December!  WTF???  Which brings me to my next problem – the expiration of my residency visa but I am jumping ahead of myself here.  Bir dakika (one minute).

This morning The Turk got a call from the Polis requiring my immediate attendance at their office in Yumuktepe.  Incidentally I had been to the suburb of Yumuktepe before as there is a ruin mound there and as a lover of history I wanted to get a gander at it.  This mound reveals a Neolithic settlement which continued up to the Middle Ages.  Like the Gözlükule Tumulus in Tarsus this one is located in a park and there really is nota lot to see however it has 23 levels of occupation dating from 6300BC which, for the geek in me, is really interesting!  I know I have gotten off topic but as a history buff this is really interesting stuff!

Anyway The Turk and I jumped and after I directed the taksi driver as he had no clue where to go we made it to the meeting out of breath and sweating.  I assumed that this was the final formality to approve my citizenship.  I did not know what it would be but I bet it was going to be simple.  Nope.  It was THE INTERVIEW.

I think this post should actually be re-named The Interview From Hell because that is what it was.  I was seated in a room underneath the Polis station where I could clearly see straight into the cells.  As I waited for the interviewer to arrive I curiously scoped out the two people in the cells opposite.  There was the buxom blonde with waaayyy too much makeup directly opposite me as well as another man to her left who was babbling loudly in a language that was not Turkish but I could not tell you what language it was or even if it was a language.  The woman, we found out, was Russian and had overstayed her visa.  Gulp!

The Turk was asked to wait outside and the interviewer proceeded to ask me a butt load of questions – in Turkish – and then write copious amounts of notes when I could not answer the question correctly.  Tears!  I was welling up and had never wanted The Turk beside me more than I did at that moment.

For those of you who are going to go through this in the coming months the questions were pretty much the following:

Where do you live?  I don’t know the address but I know how to get there.  I know which dolmus.  I can explain it to a taksi driver but right now, with you staring at me like I should be in a cell next to the Russian I cannot answer you and certainly I cannot answer you in Turkish.

Where do you like to go in Mersin (insert your own city or town here)?  Ummm?  Ne???

How is your mother and father? ölü.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  If so how many?  Do you like your brother or sister?  Jeeze how would I explain the crazy that is my family?  Is adoption even a word in Turkish?  Regardless I cannot answer with the Russian smiling a gummy smile at me through bright pink lips.  Pass.

Does your husband (or wife) have any brothers or sisters?  If so, how many?  Yes but I truly had no idea what you were saying.  Pass.

How is his mother and father?  Pass.  His father doesn’t like my cooking.  In English.

Do you like living in Mersin?  Evet.

How old are you?  44 (using my hands).

How long have you been married?  On iki yil (that one I had).

Do you have any children?  Evet.  Bir.  (I am acing this part of the interview).

How many bedrooms in your house?  Huh?  Oh yes I know this one – üç.

What is your address in (enter your place of birth or last known residence)?  I wrote this as he shook his head in mirth at my attempted answer.

Each of these questions were mixed up so he would ask me a question about my family and then asked how many bedrooms we had in our house.  My brain was still trying to translate the last answer when the next question was being shot at me.  It was horrendeous.  It was the Inquisition.  In fact that should be the name of this post The Inquisition!

I failed.  Miserably.

The interviewer was basically laughing.  The Russian visa over-stayer with too much makeup was watching me from her cell and she was laughing.  She said something in Turkish (much better than me of course) and the interviewer shushed her.  The other man in the cell opposite was giggling but I feel this was more in reply to the dust bunny in the corner of his cell.

This was a disaster.

The Interviewer called The Turk into the room and said that I would have another interview with the Vali (Governor) in 4 weeks.  Hold on!  The Turk is leaving for Australia in 3 weeks!  Can we have it before he leaves?  No.

Feck My Life!

In the interim my residency visa has now expired and I have a mere 15 days before I have to either renew or leave the country.  This was the second part of my problem.

The residency requirements have changed in the past year.  Most people (including myself) was well aware of the changes but to be honest I did not think I would still be waiting for my citizenship 10 months down the track so did not look into the visa issue.  Now it was pressing and I am swiftly running out of time.  Needed for my residency application was the following – translated copy of passport (jeeze really?), valid health insurance for the length of my residency (1 year approximately 1000TL), five passport photos (told you to keep them handy), proof of address (more difficult than you would think as I do not have any correspondence that gives my address and the Nufus will not include me in their documents until I have a kimlik which of course I cannot get until I get citizenship – the epitome of a vicious circle), copy of your tapu or your residential agreement, bank statement ensuring that you have enough funds to cover your stay and your tax number.  Easy right?  Ummm . . .

I did not even have a Turkish bank account!  So after spending the next 3 days running around and not having a breakdown after the Spanish Inquisition took place today I hope to be applying for a further 12 month residency visa tomorrow.

If they give me any grief there is a small possibility that I will go postal.  Keep an eye out on your local news channel.  If they start talking about an Australian going crazy in Mersin, well, that will be me!