Cat Benatar

Last month one of our bahçe kedileri (garden cats) passed over the rainbow bridge. His name was Deli which meant crazy, and yes he was just a little bit that way. We think he was Stanley’s boy because he had the same markings. He was also as friendly as Stanley, which was somewhat detrimental to his health (again just like dear old dad, may he also rest in peace). I’ve tried to find a photo of Deli but sadly haven’t been able to.

Anyway, The Turk was pretty broken up about losing Deli and was down in the çay evi (local tea house) smoking his cigarettes and playing pishti (Turkish card game) with his mates when he started tearing up.

“Why are you sad?”

“My best friend died.”

“Oh, no! Who was it?”

“My cat. Deli.”

Dead silence in the çay evi.

Clearly, The Turk is a little deli as well, don’t you think? 

Fast forward to a few days later and yavru kediler (kittens) started arriving on our doorstep. Big or small, they were deposited in boxes, or just dropped in the garden, all in the misguided attempt to make The Turk smile. Some disappeared pretty much straight away, but one of them realised what a good thing she was on at ours. 

Introducing Cat of the House Benatar (get it? Cat Benatar = Pat Benatar. Phew!).

I’ll start again.

Introducing Cat of the House Benatar. First of her name, Queen of Meows, Watcher of television, Breaker of Wine Glasses and Mother of all hair elastics.

Cat Benatar does not consider herself stray for that is truly beneath her standing. She took immediate possession of the whole building. No house is off limits (including my SIL who doesn’t quite have the same affection for animals as we do). Cat Benatar is great friends with our Aussie cat Kedi and loves chasing My Hurley Dog’s tail (he does not like it so much). She and Evil are yet to bond (I think it’s a chick thing), but once the colder weather sets in there will be an uneasy pause in hostilities. 

The Turk is happy. Daughter is happy. And although I put on a front about all these bloody animals, I’m somewhat happy as well. Cat Benatar sits by me as I work on manuscript number two. She also has gainful employment as a part-time paper shredder (so is paying her own way) and helps me procrastinate long into the night. 

My house is becoming a zoo!

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Turkish Housewife For The Win!

We’ve had no electric for the last ten out of fourteen days. It’s practically medieval times here in the Village so with no electric and in an effort to save myself from going bat-shit crazy out of boredom, I’ve slapped on my şalvar, wrapped my hair (to hide the grey no less) and reverted to my less than enthusiastic Turkish Housewife mode. 

First job tackled was the salca.

All of you already know that one of my highlights since I moved to Mersin is to make the salca. It reminds me of my wonderful mother-in-law and how she welcomed this somewhat reluctant yabancı gelin into the family and started me on my Turkish life. She taught me that sometimes the old ways are better and if you’re expecting several consecutive days (try several consecutive months) of 38ºC (100ºF) Mediterranean sunshine, then your salca will be much more successful if sun-dried rather than making it in the oven/cooktop.

This year’s salca experience could have ended up being a disaster, but thanks to my sister-in-law, who is nothing if not enterprising, her quick thinking saved the day (and the salca).

My salca story started just fine. I had a shopping list: 

250 kilograms kırmızı biber (red capsicum)

100 kg domates (tomatoes)

100 kg acı biber (hot chilli)

That might seem like a lot of capsicum but it never really is.

Excited, I hit the pazar and negotiated in my best Turklish to get a reasonable price, and when that didn’t work The Turk stepped in and got me the best price. 

I got cracking-a-lacking on the domates and had them chopped up and blitzed early on Saturday morning so by the time my SIL got home that afternoon I had already carried buckets of mulched domates up to the roof and had poured them into my rather dodgy (but does the job) plastic sheeting/slab. SIL did bring reinforcements for the kırmızı biber (her mother and sister), and thank goodness because without them we could have been there all night. The 100kg of acı biber are a little dicier (no pun intended). We split them into two – 50kg cleaned for salca and 50kg cleaned and cut for drying.

By 8:00 PM everything was sliced, diced, blitzed and shattered (and that was just us).

And then, and to quote the great Annie Lennox, here comes the rain again.

First rain of the season. Yah! NOT!!!

FARK!

3:00 AM and SIL banged on my door sending My Hurley Dog and me into hysterics. Once I realised we weren’t under attack, I followed her up to the rooftop. There we were in our pyjamas (or in my case my undies and a singlet because it’s still stinking hot here in Mersin) running around in the bucketing rain, trying to save our kırmızı biber from washing away. We MacGyver’ed the shit out of my sun-lounger and some plastic to fashion a make-shift tent and even though the roof resembled a crime scene with the overflow of sauce mixed with rainwater on Sunday morning, our salca and sliced acı biber were saved and able to be returned to their rightful place in the sunshine.

It might have taken a little longer this year to dry out (thanks to said bucketing) but we now have enough tomato paste and capsicum paste to feed an army, or at least feed the family through until next September. I might sound like a typical Türk but I could never go back to store-brought salca now. I mean just look at that kırmızı biber salca (capsicum paste) beautiful dark red colour. Trust me when I say it tastes amazing!

And because I never want to find myself with a pickling emergency I also perfected my pickling this past week. After a few trips to the supermarket and buying out every single bottle of üzüm sirkesi (grape vinegar) they had in stock I pickled the hell out of any vegetable that was lying around including salatakık (cucumber), soğan (onion), havuç (carrot), lahana (cabbage) and yet another 5kg of acı biber. I’m pretty sure we’re sorted for hot chillies to keep us warm on cold winter nights.

And just because I’m Aussie I got a fabulous recipe from a local chef who makes the most amazing pickled beetroot so I was back to the Mezitli pazar last weekend to pick up pancar and yet more vinegar for testing out his recipe. Finally I can get some decent beetroot for my burgers.

Thankfully the electric is now back (and hopefully will stay again for at least a few days).

Finger’s crossed because seriously if I lose my electric again today, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Seriously! Watch this space!

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Find Me A Seat

Some people come into your life for a reason, and my friend Nancy is one of them.

She and her husband moved to Mersin a few years ago, with no real plans other than to explore a part of Turkey that they had never visited before. She would often invite a few friends to explore with her, and it soon became a highlight when we would day-trip somewhere new. During her time in Mersin, we went far up and down the Mediterranean coast, as well as inland to Mut, Kahramanmaraş and Cappadocia. I would never have made the trek to these places by myself so always appreciated the invite.

Nancy is a very skilled photographer and would always arrive with her camera in hand, ready to photograph our adventures. She is completely fearless and while I would wait safely back on terra firma Nancy would more often than not be found climbing to the top of mountains or traversing cliff faces to get that perfect shot.

She recently had an exhibition of her photographs in Istanbul, which was a great success, and right now her photographs can be seen at another show in Bursa.

These two exhibitions came into being after Nancy undertook a photo essay with an Istanbul-based photography group did called “Disconnected”. Her idea was that long-abandoned sofas, found on mountaintops or by the beach were disconnected from their “natural” habitats, and yet are fulfilling their destiny by providing comfort in unexpected places.

We were all on the hunt for sofas for Nancy to photograph. I can’t tell you how many times I would pull over on the side of a road, and message her with a stealthy “red sofa on D400 near Kipa” or sent her a whatsapp location pin of a sofa on the side of the road.

I spotted these beauties near Susanoğlu. Nancy was in Istanbul at the time, but luckily they were still there a week later so she could take the shot.

I also spotted this one on the train line. Nancy had been looking for a sofa near train tracks that had that “trainspotting” feel. This guy was just outside Pozanti, and I think Nancy’s shot eludes to the dark, shabby-comedic movie, don’t you?

Following on from the success of her exhibitions, Nancy’s photos have now been made into a coffee table book. If you are interested in purchasing a book or want further information, send me your email address below, and I will pass it onto her. You can also peruse a great selection of her work here.

Us Mersin ladies are a very creative and successful bunch, aren’t we?

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Gülek Kalesi, Take Two

You guys might remember this post from March when my friends and I took a road trip up to Gülek Kalesi. That road trip turned out to be a complete disaster, and we ended up drenched, discouraged and downright depressed, but at least we made it out alive. Just to recap it was a little touch and go at times on the single-laned, pot-hole ridden track disguised as a road with its thick fog, sharp turns and blind bends that in my mind would have been more befitting Bolivia’s “road of death” than this little mountain outside of Pozantı.

We recently made a second attempt at visiting the Kalesi, travelling the same road up into the Tarsus Mountains. Thankfully we didn’t get lost, but we also didn’t recognise much of anything either.

Case in point:

After some accommodating locals pointed us in the right direction (and practised their English on us), we finally found ourselves at the top of the mountain and at the historical site of Gulek Kalesi.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like it was worth the effort … but it was!

As my friend Moe put it so succinctly, “this Byzantine, then Armenian, then Arab, then Ottoman and now tourist destination has sat on this mountaintop, casting a shadow on the village below for almost 2000 years. Yadda, yadda, we trip over that shit down here.”

I laughed so hard at this – but it’s all true.

We came for the photo, the famous ledge that hangs out over the mountain and looks straight down the otoban connecting Adana and Ankara. Sadly none our photos are as fabulous as those that are floating around on the internet, but the pride that we felt as we stood on that ledge was just as rewarding as if we had climbed Everest (and if felt like that at times as we traversed the craggy rocks to reach our destination). 

We did it!

For those of you based in or around Mersin it’s totally worth the trip (about 20 minutes outside of Tarsus) but do yourselves a favour and do it is summer or check your weather apps because shit gets real up in them there hills when the weather turns bad.

Oh and take water – lots of water!

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Nemesis 3.0

It’s been a while since I have mentioned my nemesis. Just to remind you my nemesis has reincarnated a few times over the years but has always taken the form of a rather large and loud cock-a-fecking-doodle-doing rooster.

There was the large red cock that terrorised My Hurley Dog so much that he refused to go into the yard for a good month. That red cock ended up as a fricassee. Then there was the big black cock (what am I writing?) who made it his personal mission to ensure I never slept more than two hours a night. Now I don’t know what happened to him but when he disappeared there was nothing left of him but some feathers and a beak. I’m guessing an alien abduction was the most likely cause of his demise. Then there was a cute little brown cock. He was a sweet-looking little guy but despite his tiny stature, he had a hell of a set of pipes on him! I swear you could hear him in the city. My BIL mangaled his ass and I must say he was delicious.

The owner of all of these reincarnated nemeses in their various forms, previously referred to as Crazy Eyes, had been rather quiet of late. I hadn’t seen her, or her mother or those five unruly boys (no doubt the reason for her crazy eyes), but last weekend she reappeared in a big way and worse still she brought with her yet another big black cock. She has gotten much smarter though. She knew we entered under the cover of darkness and Seal team 6’d her roosters so she has re-housed her new black cock and his six bitches onto the roof of her house. The fecking roof! Now, this new black-feathered evil dinosaur is even closer to my window.

My nemesis started this morning at 3:36AM. Precisely. He hopped to the end of his coop (read that as Crazy Eye’s roof), stared into my opened window and screamed at the top of his lungs “HEY, JANEY? ARE YOU AWAKE? JANEY? HUH? JANEY? WAKE UP! WAKE THE FECK UP!”. I swear to you this is no lie.

As he is now mere feet from my window I immediately woke, moaned, cried a little, hugged My Hurley Dog and, when this ugly ass cock-a-doodle-dummy kept this shit up for a straight forty-five minutes I gave up on sleep and went and watched the news.

So I now have a mission (if I choose to accept it) and that mission is to find myself a big-ass rifle and, if I haven’t accidentally shot off my own head in the interim, I am going to sniper the shit out of that bastard cock-a-doodle-don’t!

I be hella grumpy when I don’t sleep.

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How My Weekend Was Ruined

As we all know, I usually purchase overly elaborate birthday presents for Daughter. These presents typically involve a band and usually involves us flying to some distant location to see the said band. From 5SOS in London and Tallinn to Mayday Parade in Cologne and even following the final Warped! Tour across the US, nothing is too much for our precious prenses.

This year Daughter will be seventeen, and I had amazingly scored tickets to see The 1975 in Istanbul. ISTANBUL! No passport was necessary!! No need to change money!! And no chance of breaking the bank!

Now I have to be honest I was a little surprised to see that The 1975 were coming to Istanbul. They are arguably one of the biggest bands in the world right now however a lot of their music is dark and filled with references to drugs, sex and, well, you know, rock and roll (duh!). You’ve only got to look at their past albums to see just how close to the edge their lead singer, Matty Healy, was. But he clawed his way back and it is reflected in the new stuff – it’s confrontational, emotional and, at times, heartbreaking. I feel like Matty Healy is a man that really benefit from a cup of tea and a hug. Either way, the band always puts on a hella show (I saw them in Sydney in 2016 and was blown away) and both Daughter and I were excited to escape to Istanbul for a few nights.

On Thursday (three days before the concert date and one day before we were due to fly to Istanbul) I got an SMS advising that the concert had been “postponed”. Well anyone who has ever purchased a ticket to a gig in Turkey knows that “postponed” inevitably means “cancelled”. Within an hour of the SMS, all reference to the band had been removed from Biletix’s website and all social media regarding the gig had been deleted. The band’s manager tweeted and then deleted this statement:

For fecks sake!

This is the last time I attempt to see a concert in Turkey. I’ve been let down too many times. I guess it’s back to flying off to some other destination and giving my money to that country instead.

I knew it was too good to be true!

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İyi Bayramlar

Family has descended upon us for the week to celebrate the end of Ramazan known as Şeker Bayramı (Festival of Sweets). It’s usually a chaotic few days filled with visitors, food and way too many late nights but this year I also have a friend coming over from London for a visit which adds a particular element to the usual drama that seems to follow our family around.

I have requested that if one must sacrifice an animal could it be done at the butcher pretty please and brought back already prepped for cooking. As much as my urban friend would probably enjoy the party-like atmosphere that seems to go along with cooking the food (the consumption of your weight in cay, loads of laughter and the most scandalous gossip being the order of the evening) I genuinely don’t think she would be too impressed with the actual slaughter in our driveway (I still can’t quite get used to it).

The Turk was already in a bad mood when the family pulled up last night but ultimately lost it when he realised that not only was there a car full of humans but the car was also full of stray cats (including one very, VERY, pregnant one) from their home.
“But you love animals,” they cried.
“We have enough,” he shouted back at them.

He returned to his apartment, slammed his door and hasn’t been seen since. I felt for those in the family who were bunking at his place because personally, I would rather have slept in the garden than deal with that mood.

As usual, I get the kiddies. They all love my place because I only have three rules:

  1. No bright lights.
  2. Don’t get wet.
  3. No food after midnight.

Wait… that’s Gremlins… oops… although those rules also stand.

It’s going to be a very long, fabulous, fun week.

Bayramınız Kutlu/Mübarek Olsun (May your feast be blessed).

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One Finger Salute

I had a road rage incident here in Mersin a few months back. Full disclosure it was (kinda) my fault and I regret the whole incident but thankfully I lived to tell the tale to you guys now and, who knows, maybe my story will be a lesson on what not to do while on the roads here (or anywhere in the world these days for that matter).

Driving in Turkey can be a little *ahem* challenging at times but I can play Super Mario Kart as good as any nine year old so I feel I have the skills necessary to dodge bananas, shells or out of control turtles as I manoeuvre through the chaos of Mersin traffic.

Actual photo of driving in Mersin

So recently I was meeting a friend from Adana for lunch. Regrettably, we had chosen the weekend of the Portakal Festival which meant that everyone who had ever owned a car here in Mersin was out on the road and traffic was completely gridlocked. Neither of us minded too much as we weren’t in any great hurry, however and as usual, the impatient drivers of Mersin had all taken on their alter ego of Mario Andretti and believed that they were on the final straight at the Daytona 500.

Fast forward to 1 km from our destination… the train station in Çarşı and that’s when it happened.

We were stuck behind a car who was attempting to park on the busy road. Yes, the driver may not have had the best parking skills but as I said we weren’t in any great hurry so came to a stop behind him and waited. However, the wack job behind us in a banged-up white Fiat wasn’t as patient.

“HHOOOONNNKKKKKKKK!”

My reply (to myself mind you). “Dude, chill.”

“HHHHHOOOOOOOONNNNNNKKKKKKKK!”

Now (and mostly because my ears were actually bleeding at this point) I threw my hands up in the air very dramatically ensuring that the nut bar behind me could clearly see I was frustrated by his behaviour.

My reply (out loud but not out the window). “What the hell do you want me to do, ya bloody dickhead!”

It happened a third time.

“HHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!”

I moved forward slightly to enable the hot rod enough space to nudge into the traffic beside us. He passed. Slowly. And I did the unthinkable… I gave him the finger!

Yep, I flipped him off. I showed him the bird. I gave him the highway salute.

Hindsight and all that I knew I shouldn’t do it but on very rare occasions my Aussie-ness explodes out, and I’m drinking beer, calling people “flamin’ galah’s” and, well, giving people the finger. In Australia it’s endearing. That’s how we Aussies say hello. I swear! Okay maybe not.

Anyhow… Mad Max came to a screeching halt about thirty metres ahead, and he jumped out of his car and raced towards us like Usain Bolt while being chased by two other car occupants who were attempting to tackle him to the ground.

“Holy shit!” said I.

“Oh my!” said my more eloquent friend.

I became my very own version of Mario Andretti and floored it, swerving through the traffic in an effort to get as far away from this wack-job as possible. And then it happened.

Dude threw himself at my car, like his whole body, flying through the air at the passenger side of the car! I didn’t stop. I looked through my rear vision mirror and watched him roll neatly into the gutter, dust himself off and immediately give chase again. There was no stopping him! He was the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Holy shit!

Thankfully we lost him in the chaos that is every day Çarşı, and I dropped my shaken but not stirred friend at the train station. I drove home in a state of panic to update The Turk who immediately took me and the car to the polis merkezi to report the incident and to obtain paperwork for the insurance claim on the body-sized dent in our front passenger door.

Unfortunately, the polis was not as helpful as we had hoped and informed me I had “antagonised” the other driver so nothing could be done, in fact he had the right to make a complaint against ME! They also gave me a warning about driver safety and road rage because if you piss someone off here, the other driver could pull out a gun/axe/knife/pitchfork and really go to town.

Being a sensible kind of Aussie and wanting to learn my lesson I did a little research on road rage around the world and do you know what? In a recent report commissioned in Belgium, it seems that 77% of Australians have been subject to an “obscene gesture while driving”. Crikey! I wonder how many of them were me???

In Turkey, authorities are at constant loggerheads about how to control the trafik canavari (traffic monster) and road rage that seems to be an everyday occurrence.

The moral of my story is to never, ever give anybody the finger; you never know what type of looney tunes is in the car behind you, or beside you, or in front of you.

Lesson learned.

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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!

Google Images

Definitely memorable.

Google Images

A little deli perhaps?

Google Images

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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My Father-In-Law

My father in law passed away recently. He might have been a colossal pain in my ass but he was also a big part of my life. I will miss him a lot.

There are so many fond memories of my father in law that I could mention but perhaps my earliest memory of him is the best as it sets the tone for our whole relationship.

It was back in the autumn of 2001. The world had gone to shit and I was in a Muslim country wondering whether I should high-tail it back to the relative normalcy of Australia. Instead, I travelled from Bodrum to the Village to meet The Turk’s extended family. It was a long twenty-four hours by bus and I was beyond exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to be dragged into a room spilling over with people all staring and shouting and smiling, waiting to meet the yabancı gelin. I was so nervous that I nearly threw up (which is more likely because I was also pregnant at the time). There, in the centre of the room was a tall, thin and extremely loud man who was the spitting image of The Turk. Definitely his dad! The Turk introduced me. “This is Hurşit.”

Seriously?

“What did you say?”

“Hurşit.”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“Horseshit?”

Hayir, Hurşit”.

“That’s exactly what I said.”

Once The Turk translated my lousy attempt at his mother’s tongue for the rest of the family my father in law roared with laughter and pulled me in for a hug. The man definitely had an excellent sense of humour but sensibly it was suggested that from that moment on I should call him Dede.

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Dede was a constant source of entertainment (and more often than not bewilderment) for me. He was crabby and very bloody opinionated, but he could be swayed pretty easily with a glass of wine or slipping him a few lira so he could have a flutter on the horses. He was practically deaf and spent his days shouting at the television or yelling at the family (or at anyone who happened to pass by for that matter) but when he wasn’t bellowing about the state of the world he would be singing and loved nothing more than an appreciative audience as he sang Turkish love songs in an effort to make us smile. Time passed and dementia reared its ugly head but that didn’t sway Dede’s smile or laughter, although now he spoke mostly in Arabic which made it impossible for me to understand him or to tend to his needs. Dede hated my cooking but he still ate with gusto. He could swear like a sailor and very much appreciated when I swore back at him because it meant that at least I was practising my abysmal Turkish. He was at his happiest sitting beside a mangal (bbq) in the sunshine surrounded by his family.

Over the years we had all been on the receiving end of Dede’s scathing humour. I never really mind because most of the time I totally deserved it, in fact one of my final memories was of him making me look like a bit of a galah … again.

On a recent shopping trip I had totally splurged and brought myself the most fabulous leopard print jacket along with a pair of knee-high boots. After an outing wearing my spiffy new outfit (and feeling like bir milyar dollar I might add), I returned home to find The Turk and Dede partaking in a glass of çay at my front door. He took one look at me and nearly busted a gut laughing. I knew I was just about to become the butt of one of his jokes.

“Neye gülüyorsun?” (“What are you laughing at?”)

He pointed at me. “Salak!” (“Idiot!”)

I gave him the finger. “Sen salaksin”. (You’re the idiot.”)

He laughed even harder and hit me with his cane as I passed. “Siktir git ya!” (“Fuck off!”).

The Turk watched on with glee before he too started laughing. I stormed off tossing swear words back at them as I left (mostly in English but with a few choice Turkish words thrown in for good measure). I could still hear Dede’s raucous laughter as I stomped off up the stairs.

Yep, I am really going to miss that man!

Başiniz sağ olsun (Let health be on your head)

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