Have a dose of what life is really like living here – from my single-handed destruction of the Turkish language, random arguments with random relatives about everything from apples to vaginas to learning the secrets to making the perfect içli köfte! Highs or lows this is my observations from the melting pot of crazy that is my life in Mersin.
Heads up readers. This will be a post about going potty, not crazy, but the other potty, you know, in the bathroom… anyway, you have been warned.
When the world went crazy for toilet paper during COVID-19, most of us in Turkey were pretty chill about the need to stock up because we have a taharet musluğu on our toilet. Taharet is Arabic for cleanliness and musluk means tap, so I’m sure you work out what it does.
I admit that I don’t often use the taharet musluğu because, well, I prefer tissue, however, on occasion it can get a little iffy “back there” and I need to give my bot-bot an extra squirt for good measure.
I recently had the need to use the taharet musluğu thanks to a particularly spicy Adana Kebab that was made by my BIL (who doesn’t really like me and possibly made it a little spicier than usual). I can handle it (and the aftermath), but still, I turned on the taharet musluğu to, well, I don’t need to explain what happens next… plus it’s pretty dang hot here right now, so my bottom was enjoying the refreshing spray. But then something happened, something completely unexpected – boiling hot water suddenly shot up my bum hole. I screamed in pain, it was like someone had poured a kettle on me. I jumped up and watched the steam rising from the water, not from my poopy mind you, the water! Yep, boiling water was shooting out of my taharet musluğu! I could have been maimed! My bot-bot could have sustained third-degree burns! Shit just got real… really, real!
Now I haven’t had much luck with my water recently. You might recall this post about our hot water system exploding late last year, since then we’ve had numerous “village” plumbers visit on multiple occasions to try and fix the numerous problems to no avail. Of course, it’s to no avail because these salaklar aren’t actually trained plumbers!
We finally arranged for a plumber from the city, a REAL, honest to God, plumber! I felt like I’d won the lottery. Anyway, the plumber fixed the problem, but he also pointed out that our pipes were wrongly connected. He said that our hot is cold and our cold is hot. I’d never noticed that and it really didn’t affect me … until now!
So if you see me wandering around the village this week and I’m walking a little *cough, cough* delicately, well, now you know why!
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This post is a public service announcement for all the Aussies out there living in Turkey but still fecking around with their Australian driver’s licences.
Now anyone who has been reading my blog for a while now knows I’ve had my fair share of issues driving in this great country. There was, of course, the great One Finger Salute of 2018, a tale so infamous that the story is still whispered in certain circles both here in Mersin AND in Adana, as well as copious near-misses, traumatic incidents and, well, just general bok involving shitty Turkish drivers!
But that’s not the point of this post.
Let me start again before I get completely off the track.
I love Australia. It’s the lucky country. It’s the land of sweeping plains (and a summer of fecking awful bushfires). And sure, everything might be trying to kill you, but its still a tremendous fecking country. But—
“OMG! Is Janey actually going to bag out Australia?”
Okay… maybe a little bit.
Here’s the thing, I’ve held a valid NSW driver’s licence and have been driving for a little over 33 years now (guess my age!).
Anyone who lives in Turkey knows that waayyyy back in 2016 all foreign driver’s licences had to be exchanged to a Turkish driver’s licence or you had to leave the country every six months to get a new incoming stamp in your passport. I told The Turk back when we needed to transfer our driver’s licences before the cut-off date, and he did transfer HIS driver’s licence. Mine? Hmmm. Nope. We’ll do yours later. But the cut-off! No, it’s fine. Well, it wasn’t “fine”, but you just can’t teach a moron new tricks, can you?
To be honest, I loved the idea of leaving the country every six months, after all coming from a country where it would typically take you a day of travel (and most of your sanity) to arrive in Europe, I thought, yeah, I’m going to hop on planes every chance I get!
Real-life isn’t like that, though, is it?
It was long past time for me to transfer my NSW driver’s licence for a sürücü belgesi (Turkish driver’s licence).
It seems that instead of Australia joining pretty much the rest of the world and having an across the board set of driving laws, each State has their own no doubt unique laws. I understand why. I mean Australia is freaking huge so it needs different laws for different states but, let’s be honest, if we can’t get our shit together back in Oz, then we’re not going to be invited to any of the cool parties like those keggers at the UN! Bullies!
So way to go guys! Ninety-one other countries have managed to get their bok together but us Aussies are standing at the front door without an invite? I also noticed that New Zealand isn’t on that list. Can’t imagine why unless they have different laws for North and South. Jacinta needs to get onto that pronto (and maybe she can fix Australia up while she’s getting shit done).
Anyway, it was time.
It had to be done.
I was going to apply for a Turkish Driver’s licence.
Off I went to a company here in Mersin who undertook driving courses. A Turkish driver’s licence requires the learner to take weekly classes and pass a written test. Bollocking bok!
The Company also provided me with a learner’s manual in English. Not the Queen’s English, mind you. More like Drunk Google English. Have a go at this:
METALLICA!!! At least it didn’t say Bon Jovi because that really wouldn’t have made any sense, would it?
I also was given a link for practice exam questions. Again I started to wonder if Google wasn’t just drunk but quite possibly on crack!
I pray that if I’m ever in a coma my saviour doesn’t refer to this page for their medical advice. Seriously. I’d be screwed.
Anyway, all joking aside, I took the exam and passed like a total boss! Google had definitely sobered up by the time I took the exam as the questions were easy to comprehend. Thank goodness!
After a few mandatory driving lessons (by a teacher who was 31 so wasn’t even an itch in his dad’s balls when I got my valid licence back in Oz) I took my driving exam (which, in my case, was a set course on the wild streets of Mersin) and guess what???
I now hold a valid Turkish driver’s licence! Another feather in my Turkish cap.
For those of you who are looking at obtaining their Turkish driver’s licence, all bok aside it’s a pretty easy undertaking. Check out Doc Marten’s page for the most up to date information.
The only very real glitch was that you need your school certificate, leaving certificate or even your TAFE or university degree. I know it’s a pain but the documents can be obtained even if you are older than Methuselah, like me (this is the link for the NSW replacement but all the Aussie states have something similar). I also took my test in an automatic car so don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done because it bloody well can!
Oh, and the price? I’m told it varies greatly from city to city but the full course, classes, written exam and driver’s exam usually costs 1500TL. There is also a payment to have the licence issued which is approximately 920TL.
Watch out, Mersin! Now I really can drive like a local, which means while I promise never to give anyone the one finger salute again what I CAN do is eat sarma while yelling on my mobile, with five goats on my backseat, an angry teyze beside me, while blasting Takan at a bazillion decibels as I drive down the otoban in my 1994 unregistered rust-bucket Tofaş Doğan doing 180kph!
I actually have another driving story to tell you as well, but I’ll save that for another day because I’ve got real-life shit to get on with.
Important: If you are driving on a foreign licence and do not obtain an incoming passport stamp every six months it is not only illegal but in the case of an accident, Turkish insurance companies will require a copy of your passport and last entry stamp page be included with the claim documents. If the passport stamp is out of date, then the insurance policy is invalidated, and you will personally be held responsible for the accident. In the case of a fatality, you can be sued for future financial loss by the deceased person’s family.
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Yep everyone in Turkey from Adana (01) to Düzce (81) is rejoicing. How do I know the city numbers? WIKIPEDIA TOLD ME!!
For those of you not aware back in April 2017 the Turkish Government suddenly banned my beloved Wikipedia when it refused to take down specific content (as you can see I am being rather vague but that’s because I don’t want to be unceremoniously banned either but if you’re interested in what the content actually was you can see them here). On the 15th January 2020 the ban was quietly overturned by the Turkish Courts and today (or last night more specifically) Wikipedia began to open again.
For someone like me Wikipedia isn’t just at the forefront of people-powered information it is also a haven of useless information. It is Wikipedia that introduced me to Le Pétomane (a performer who could fart at will) and it made me knowledgable on the very real medical disorder called Koro (which is the overpowering belief that your genitals will shrink and disappear). Thank you Wikipedia. Wikipedia also introduced me to the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 that actually killed 21 people and of course it today re-introduced me to the Emu War (which I originally was taught about back in primary school… I know… Australia, right?!). None of this prime information would’ve been available to me yesterday but today…. IT IS!!!
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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.
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 yabancıgelin 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!!!
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 bibersalca (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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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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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.
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.
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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!
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.
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:
No bright lights.
Don’t get wet.
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).