Looks like we made it


Where do I start? I know it’s been a year but what a year! Or more to the point what a few weeks leading up to our annual trek across a continent. The only excitement last year was that Ozzy and Lewis were found safe after escaping yet again (the plastic grater tortoise is a much more reliable pet). And me managing to work an unofficial agreement with bosslady that if I worked my arse off accruing hours, I could take a bit more leave and see if all systems worked here. Thankfully they do, so no sudden and expensive return home.

So after weeks of planning, and crying actual tears over Brexit in the mean time, just when I thought that things couldn’t get much bleaker for Smelly, Dosh, and Lai Lai’s future–how wrong could I be? Possibly a lot more wrong that someone arguing about chem trails in the sky, or that the world is flat, or that armageddon was due this week. Scratch that possibly and replace it with totally.

Unless you have successfully gone ostrich in the past few weeks, there has been the minor issue of an attempted coup. For me it all started with M flying through the door from work at 9:30pm saying ‘turn the telly on, put it on the news’, followed by both of us trying to get the Turkish internet TV system to work before relying on Al Jazeera and staring in disbelief for a few hours. Creating all kinds of deja vu from a couple of weeks earlier when I stayed up till 3 am watching BBC as the % slipped from no to yes only to go back to no again.

As it turned out the coup was pretty quickly put down, but it felt like longer with a sense of no one quite believing what was going on. Then all the dark stories, conspiracies, and backlash started. M was never flinching that we would be arriving on the date our tickets said but with airlines cancelling flights and uncertainty, I certainly did not share his Mr Rusty type reassurance to a sad Florence of “Don’t worry, everything will be alright. And I’m not often wrong about these things.” (Obscure Magic Roundabout reference not Ms and her machine).

I’m not going to bang on about the politics of it all. I became quite disengaged politically, especially regarding Turkey when the man who is now president, first came to power. Let’s just say that there is now an odd period of retribution going on along side a sort of unity with people standing up to support democracy (however flawed) and condemning the coup as a way to resolve the polarising nature that has been Mr powerful’s creation. For some their entire life has been devastated and turned upsidedown, while for others–even under this state of emergency–life goes on as normal. Those who have the option are considering whether this is a place they wish to stay in, some have already left, and others haven’t been affected by it too much and wish to stay as this is their home. This doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening, nor does it mean that things will get better, worse, or stay the same. Ultimately it didn’t change our plans, we had our tickets, THY had only suspended flights for a matter of hours, we were coming.

While all of this was happening I was trying to sort out how we were supposed to get to the airport in the first place. M had booked night flights. Not a happy bunny. Insomnia meant that I had 4 hours sleep the night before our flight, not a great start. Tired from packing and cleaning, collecting kids, the driving to the airport, I was buzzing by the time we got to check in. Minor panic about upgrade but we got it and seats almost together. Being past 9pm meant lounges were closed so a buzzing mum, bobbing around duty free with a sales woman who couldn’t believe her luck in that I seemed to just buy whatever she suggested. We had £45 in vouchers to spend at this bar place that only did burgers at that time. Do not ask why I decided that we all should eat. But in spite of disapproval I announced I planned to have a drink to calm my nerves. Who put that idea in my head? Not doing that again, really doesn’t work. Alcohol, even in small amounts does not relax me when I am buzzing.

I would have done anything not to have got on the plane. I would be very happy never to get on a plane again but given that the only other option is to drive, and therefore far more likely to result in death, I went down the ramp and sat on the plane. I’d love to say that all was well. I made a valiant effort to distract myself with some film that I cannot remember now. But then the turbulance. I flipped out just a tad. M even offered me to get me a stiff drink but I had flipped way beyond a drink being of any use. The air hostess was all ‘it’s OK I’m walking around, don’t worry’ until she was told to sit and the pilot announced it was going to last a minimum of 15 minutes and he planned to go lower to ride it out. It did stop but it felt like an age and so Smelly started to freak a bit towards the end (he wasn’t sat next to me so he flipped all of his own accord). Lai Lai slept through it all, and Dosh’s main worry was that he was nearly sick. I was beyond all use to be reassuring to anyone, total mum fail. Perhaps it was the exhaustion because by the time we landed (very softly thank you nice German pilot) I had gone over 36 hours on 4 hours sleep.

We rocked up in the VIP lounge and I was not a pretty site. I was kind of thankful for the post coup crackdown of travel bans, which meant the lounge was virtually empty. I think it being a Sunday helped too. I was a trembling, snotty, teary mess. So while Lai Lai slept for another 3 hours till the connecting flight, and the other two hogged the computers I finally wound down for an hour’s sleep. I had lost the ability to care.

The next flight was serenity in comparison. Apart from Dosh, again trying to be sick on take off (something to do with a smell), I do hope this hasn’t become a thing for him. This time Lai Lai distracted me with some kind of angry birds rip off on the screens (no films working on a short flight). He got to level 12 while I just scraped level 9. And then we were in Adana. Just the drive home left. So glad that bit wasn’t down to me.

We made it. We got through our front door. Kids went straight to the telly. I went into inspecting mode. Turns out that the cleaner niece hired was the worst in the world: flat not clean, things in weird places like she had clearly rifled through our stuff. Given the crap that is going on around these are first world moans. We got here safely, we have been in the pool, the kids are going to a summer school, my work stuff works, the washing machine exploded, I’m countering things from the summer school–such as left hands and satan–with “ignore that shite, it’s about a lack of soap and bum wiping” and “no it’s not enough to just clean your teeth with that stick.”

We’re here, all in one piece. Normal may not be what it was but it is what it is. And I am still thinking of titles from lyrics unintentionally. So have some Shania Twian even if she is a tad soppy.

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A little less conversation, a little more action please

I wish it was as simple  as that, and that it was Elvis I was actually referring too. Last year I wrote about how the Syrians in Mersin, and throughout Turkey, were not being treated well. It’s now been 4 years, and while Turkey still has almost 2 million refugees in camps and scattered around the country, the rest of the world-especially the EU-have been bitching and moaning about how they can stop the “tide of migrants’ coming to their countries. Much of this fuelled by various media outlets and one in particular in the UK which LOVES to run a story about how these hoards come over to the UK and either take our jobs or draw on the benefits system. Hoards, really? Let this Prof explain

The rhetoric in places like Mersin is not much different these days. Lots of stories about Syrians coming and under cutting Turkish people and taking poorly paid construction jobs at lower rates than Turks can work for. As I said last year the complaints also cover how they are pushing up the price of housing, both rental and sales.  There are some other pretty abhorrent and racist things being said about the Syrians here, despite many of those in Mersin setting up businesses and contributing to the economy.

The trouble is, trying to explain to people how people fleeing Syria are:

  1. not doing so out of choice
  2. not all uneducated and if given half a chance could contribute to the country that is willing to accept them-doctors, nurses, engineers etc
  3. won’t automatically place a burden on economies and sit on their arses drawing benefits
  4. don’t get on boats for the pure fun of it, or think that the streets of London are paved with gold
  5. don’t actually want to be in another country at all and just want to go HOME

It just falls on deaf ears, or at least the ears of those with the power to actually DO anything are decidedly deaf. They don’t want to hear or see the statistics which show that the vast majority of people who enter the UK and are non British citizens, actually contribute in taxes and voluntary work. Rather, they are too busy putting up extra barriers to entry–build those fences higher! More razor wire! Hey, here’s and idea, how about a Israeli/Berlin style wall to keep those pesky refugee/migrants/cockroaches/whatever filthy word you want to use to dehumanise people, out.

Or perhaps……just perhaps…..they might start listening now. Because unless you live under a rock, a toddler died. UK press apparently censored many of the more shocking of the photos of the child laying on the beach, in favour of a Turkish coast guard carrying the boy. So hardened are we to images of war, hearing numbers of people dying (2600 Syrians from Turkey so far, and due to get worse), or sucked in by various press outlets that we have no room, that sadly it is this image of this poor boy-out of the many thousands-which may be the one to turn people’s stomachs enough to start a wave of reaction. Within hours of the image being on the internet it have been posted in various forms by newspapers and all over social media and blogs. It’s this image, over and above people being beaten, locked out of train stations, breaking down fences, walking hundreds of miles, having numbers written on their arms in biro, this image which might, just might make a difference,

Or will it? I’m afraid that the cynic in me says that these days even this isn’t enough. EU leaders are talking about quotas. Well how about this? Watch how this boy explains to all of us how things really are, how actually they would quite like to carry on living where they were born, where their home is/was, where their culture and everything familiar is/was. They don’t want to be in Europe any more than European is making VERY clear that they don’t want them. Well perhaps with the exception of one of the smallest EU nations, Iceland, but even with people saying they would be happy to take Syrian people into their own homes, their Prime Minister is not exactly enthusiastic about that idea.

The cynic in me also realises that unless the various political leaders stand up and do something rather than talking about how to minimise it or actually having a proper solution (not that I would trust them to get that right given how royal messed up so much of the region is right now), it’s just going to go on. And soon, sadly we may even become immune to the image of a child laying lifeless on a beach. I do hope not.

Bodrum is one of the wealthiest holiday resorts in the country. It’s where many rich Istanbullers choose to have their summer houses, and where many of the famous Turks are pictured in the equivalent of OK or HELLO magazine during the summer. Yet it’s also very very close to the island of Kos. There are other islands close to other parts of the Turkish coast, but Kos is one of the closest. Those other ares are also facing daily groups of Syrians with no other plans than to find the traffickers and get on a precarious boat to make the journey. The traffickers are gangs, and aggressive with it. The Turkish authorities are either powerless against them or just don’t care because once out of Turkey the Syrians are no longer their problem any more. That is till the boats capsize in Turkish waters or bodies wash up on the shoreline. This is just one account of what people who live in the not so rich districts of Bodrum are seeing, but I have heard many other accounts in other resort areas of life vests on the beaches and other evidence of people having left quickly in the night. The reason we’re not seeing it ourselves, in Mersin, is because the nearest island to us is Cyprus and that’s a day away by ferry. Besides Cyprus is too complicated, being half Turkish and half Greek Cypriot.

So why flee? They made it out of Syria to Turkey. Again, not that simple. Here there is no system for asylum, it’s run by the UNHCR who make decisions on whether people are eligible for asylum in other countries, and if they are lucky enough to get through the lengthy process will be supported to exit legally to whichever nation they have chosen/has accepted them. Trouble is that the UNHCR system was already at breaking point, and now it has declared that for non Syrians it is likely to be 10-15 years before they can even start to have their applications for asylum. If you read it, you’ll soon see how being a refugee in Turkey is far from great. Most of the Syrians who fled are in camps near the border, those who get out can’t guaranteed being allowed to stay in host cities, as last year all were ordered back to the camps from one city after a fight broke out. Often they have to report daily to the police, who don’t always treat them well. They may get a food voucher but it’s hardly enough to last them a week, let a lone a month. They are severely restricted in how or if they are allowed to participate in society-jobs, schooling, business etc. Many are educated but not allowed to practice their professions, ie not sure if it’s still true but definitely up until a few years ago if your didn’t train in Turkey you could not practice as a nurse or a doctor.

In fact the few Syrian people who are in Mersin are actually very very lucky. They have cars and housing, and several have set up businesses to employ each other. Sadly the majority are not so lucky. And that is why people flee. What is better, staying in a country where asylum claims will take years, and in that time you are in complete limbo, or try and get to a country where the process will hopefully be quicker and you’ll actually be able to be a functioning part of it? This doesn’t mean that it’s Turkey’s fault, far from it, but while they opened their borders and accepted 2 million people fleeing from their homes, what exactly have the EU done other than bitch and moan, and send out nasty negative rubbish. Do they think that Turkey can cope with and extra two million people? Or more to the point do they even care? As long as they are in Turkey, they are not the EU, or anybody else’s problem. Trouble is, they don’t want to be in Turkey, so they are other countries problem.

So we have a stalemate. The EU will talk their quotas while expecting the Turkish authorities to hold back the ‘tide of migrants’ and stop the people traffickers. The Turkish authorities know that short of building a wall in the sea, which would be bad for tourism, and arresting all the traffickers, of which more will cheerfully appear and take extortionate payments for unsafe vessels packed with desperate people, there’s not really a lot they can do to stop people desperate to leave who will do anything to do just that.

So what we have now are images of a little boy called Aylan Kurdi, a list of ways to help out, local charities in Turkey and elsewhere doing their very best to make life easier and more bearable, and an image which hopefully shows that not all is lost.

What we need is a little less conversation and a little more action please, from those with the power to do so.

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Sometime you just have to close your eyes

Yesterday we had  great day, up in Findikpinari, in the mountains visiting Uncle Mustafa’s rickety hand made yayla. I did the whole touristy thing of taking lots of photos of both my amazement that this place hasn’t either fallen down, blown down, or been burnt to the ground, as well as the local landscapes, chicken prisons, and of course this:


Because, well, of course building a restaurant on top of a rock is a perfectly normal thing to to. Sadly no longer open for business, I wonder why? Husband says no car park, but he did add that it probably wasn’t safe either.

We had 3 excited boys in the car because we had promised them a trip to the fun fair (luna park). In fairness this trip was meant to be for Lai Lai’s birthday but he fell asleep after the beach and didn’t wake up till the morning so it was postponed. But today was the day!

As we came out of the yayla, the rather ominous clouds had started to rumble, and the heavens tried to open. Driving back to Mersin we saw the clouds were much heavier down there so it could all have been rained off. Luckily it was all a bit pathetic and didn’t last long. By the time we were back in town nothing was going to stop these boys from having a good good time at the ‘fun’ fair.

Husband decided that the newer one at the Marina was too expensive, so off we drove to experience the ‘original’. It’s at this point you have to close your Western 21st century health and safety eyes, and just be amazed and how kids can see beauty, wonder, fun, and amazement in an area that to you just looks, well, a bit more than shit.

To say it looked tired would be giving the place a compliment, this is where fairground rides come to die, or at least enter into the final stages before death. We had to pay 1 lira each, for the privilege of entering this dilapidated requiem to pleasure. Then we had to pay for the rides.

Thank God my phone no longer had any charge left, and that despite Lai Lai’s cries of “take a photo mummy” as he sat on a cello (?) going round and round for an age on a very sorry, misery-go-round, I simply could not take one to share the true awfulness of it all. In the middle of this ride, just to give you an idea of how old it was, was some kind of faded (?) black and white minstrel. See, I told you it was old. Where do you send an ageing racist fairground round that is no longer acceptable anywhere else? Mersin of course.

The place was hardly bustling, but there was one dad totally obsessed with his selfi stick having a grand old time. Admittedly he was a distraction when the boys opted to go on the aeroplanes. It wasn’t till they were on them that I really did need a distraction. Looking too closely at the ride meant I could see how many times the tired fibreglass had been repaired. I could also see that while the hydraulics worked fine, certain parts–like bungs and bumpers, were decidedly loose. My children won’t die, my children won’t die, they’re having fun. I had to endure that one twice.

Finally off those ageing planes, we walked around the rest of the place to see what pleasures could be had. NO they were definitely NOT going to go on the roller coaster thing. Rather glad that they are scaredy cats about somethings. So, dodgems–what could possibly go wrong there. Well for one, Husband deciding that after pigging out at Uncle Mustafa’s he had a belly ache and couldn’t possible accompany anyone on them, and two me wearing a skirt. I hadn’t imagined the skirt to be an issue till I got in. Aside from having a ripped seat it turned out to be the most uncomfortable vehicle I have ever had the ‘pleasure’ of getting in. (If I keep saying pleasure it reminds me that this was fun fun fun tripled). Not only that but the damned thing was clearly set up for a midget. So with my knees up to my ears, I sat constantly trying to pull my skirt down so that my pants weren’t on display to the dad who decided to video the whole thing.

And then we were off. Oh the fun and pleasure really began now. Me trying to avoid too many bumps so that Lai Lai didn’t totally freak, but with everyone else having very different ideas and deciding that we were the prey to be hunted down and rammed into next week. Possibly egged on by that ruddy dad and the fact that there was potential for my pants to be on show. Half the cars didn’t work but that hadn’t meant they were removed, so the area to drive was half what it should have been. But to give it that real Turkish driving experience; it had pot holes. Massive, clunking, spine-damaging chunks out of the metal driving area that looked like nothing till you went over one. I was having FUN, this is such fun–trying not to grind my teeth and exposing the nerves.

It went on for eternity. One thing you can say for dilapidated, almost empty fun fairs here is that they give you a lengthy ride, whether you like it or not. Off to the next one then. Remember this is fun, it’s Blackpool pleasure beach, yes it is.

Smelly ran over to the ‘racing cars’, which looked very much closed. Padlocks pretty much suggested that. But no, a grumpy looking man told us it was actually working. Thankfully he was the one to dish out the disappointing news to Lai Lai and Dosh that they were too young. Smelly was undeterred. I most definitely was not. But I had a cunning way to get out of this: “the park opposite us has new go carts which are better, he can go on those another day”. Yes, fist pump, he walked away. The fun park opposite our flat is a whole other story.

Husband shouts that they could choose only one more ride. They saw the bungy trampolines and chose those, what could possibly go wrong. They got their tokens and waited for the other kids to finish their go, while I stood and looked at the harnesses. They may be called harnesses, but in reality they didn’t appear to be in any way shape or form a safety device. Ah well, they’ll be fine. I survived the 1970s after all. They all had a good bounce, with Dosh coming off early because his bits were being torn in two by the harness, but he stuck at it for a good while without complaining because this was FUN.

Casting my eyes around the park, I see just behind the dodgems a massive pile of random rusting metal. (Switch off the health and safety overload going on in my brain). I also see just how filthy everything, including the trampolines are. I’ve already ignored the fact that the boys went to the loo in a building that seemed to be on it’s last legs, and thankfully only had hole-in-the-ground toilets. Say what you will about a hole in the ground but at least you don’t have to sit on anything or touch anything. Plus it’s kind of easier to crouch and hold the door closed at the same time, when locks never work anyway.

Yay! We made it, no one died. We quick march out of the park, avoiding the ridiculously priced shooting game with utterly crap prizes. We get through the gate and…Dosh spies the candy floss. Husband is in a generous mood so buys them all one. It’s not till I see the fading sunset reflecting on the specks on Dosh’s face that I realise quite how luminous this candy floss is. Close my eyes, the odd bit of food colouring that is probably banned in the EU won’t kill them.

Not all fun fairs here are like that. The newer one, like the one in the marina is actually quite good. Not all candy floss is illegally pink, the stuff they sell on the promenade is pretty normal and much bigger. We all remembered a couple of years ago when they had some there and Lai Lai’s was almost as big as his head, which he found a great challenge to eat while his pesky brothers had wolfed down theirs and were stealing his.

Out of the fun fair we decide to walk round the harbour. Sadly depressing as we turn the corner to discover the now demolished water park. Basically, the way that worked was the municipality put in plans to build the water park, environmentalists objected, municipality built it anyway, environmentalists won court case, court ordered it’s demolition. Trouble is, the flaw in all this is; the army still have their water park which no one can touch because it’s military, the damage has been done years before this park because the fun fair is on the same reclaimed land and has been there for years, and the whole coastline–which was once beach–is now filled in from Mezitli to central Mersin, right up to the army base just before the luna park, because of the promenade park.

As we walk we find a whole in the fence, and walk through to get down to the last remaining bit of beach. All the boys promptly fall in the sea. Husband is glad of the candy floss bags as they can now sit on them in the car in the way home. He doesn’t approve of my just let them be naked idea. Dosh tries to have a moan that we not going to go out for dinner due to Husband’s gurgling and explosive belly. He is shot down. We have had FUN! Lots of it, mostly lethal, but we didn’t die.

Off home for spaghetti and bed.

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It’s limescale John, but not as we know it

Cillit Bang! Bang and the dirt is gone. Ha. The world has gone dirt and germ mad, especially with those lovely Dettol ads which attempt to scare you rigid that all your surfaces are germ ridden death traps that will instantly kill all your children. Then come all the ads telling you that limescale is going to kill all your appliances and you must shove this powder into dishwashers and washing machines to save them, and make them last–like they don’t all have inbuilt obsolescence of around 2 years these days.

You can Cillit Bang! my backside. Honestly, if you think you have a problem with limescale you have clearly never been here. The water is so hard in Mersin it really should flow solid, if that were even physically possible. I’ve lived in quite a few different places but never like this. Here you don’t get water marks if you don’t dry things up immediately, it just calcifies. We don’t even live in this apartment year round but already taps and stuff have nice lumps of lime. And if you dare to use soap…no wonder everyone tends to use liquid soaps here.

I admit that I’m not the best at cleaning, and so by Turkish standards especially, my home is just a dive. But I also don’t want to get sucked into using all sorts of nasty chemicals to keep my taps shiny. There are eco products here but not always easy to come by, normally double the price, and seemingly limited to washing up liquid and all purpose cleaner. You can’t get white vinegar here but even so the level of lime in the water just makes it too much for vinegar alone to handle. I did try a nasty chemical once that promised to get rid of it and make things shine, but my taps suffered and are no longer the lovely chrome shiny things they once were.

If you think I am exaggerating, my kettle can be exhibit A. Lovely shiny new thing last year. Within a week it was caked in limescale. I’ve seen some caydanlik (stove kettle tea pot combos) where you can practically chip the stuff off with a knife. And earlier this week when we popped up to Doctor’s Place in the mountains Husband pulled a glass out of the river, not sure how long it had been there but it was now opaque because of a thick coat of lime.

I’m just surprised that they haven’t discovered caves with humungous stalactites around here, like the ones in Spain. There are a few inside the heaven and hell cave, but not really that impressive. There has to be some surely, given the amount of water which clearly flows through the mountains absorbing all this stuff.

Mind you, my inability to cope with the quantities of lime every drop of tap water brings is probably just me being crap. Today hasn’t been one of successes. The apple cinnamon muffins I was making to give the neighbours plate back with, have gone a tad pear shaped. I slipped with the cinnamon so they’re just a tad overspiced. Then they barely rose. They’re not that bad if you can take a big cinnamon hit. I will have to try another batch of something later, the plate has been with us some time now.

I have been promised a cleaner before we leave though. So she can make everything shiny and lovely again. I’ll be sure to clean before she comes though, because, you know, can’t have the cleaner thinking I’m dirty.

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Bunch of crazies, a whole bunch of freaking crazies!!

There are those people who come over here and fall in love with the country and the people: “Oh they’re so warm and welcoming, so friendly”. OK I I get that, the culture here is to be hospitable, and for many that is exactly what they get. I do wonder sometimes if that tends to be the ones who don’t appear to be a threat and invade the family by marrying into it, but hey that’s just me being cynical yet again. To be honest I haven’t had such a bad ride, and I have met some great people in my time here. Plus by the standards of some of the people who post in terms of run in’s with the outlaws, I’m having a fine old time–well average at least.

But for those who come to this country and fall in love, they clearly have not been the one driving the vehicle. You may sit in the passenger seat, on the bus, dolmus or whatever and experience the feeling that death in imminent. If not that extreme I certainly challenge you to look back and tell me that there has never been a moment when your hair didn’t stand on end, or you didn’t find yourself clutching onto either the person seated next to you or any available bar on the vehicle, for grim death. If you don’t then you’re clearly from another country where driving is just a normal art of dicing with death every day.

Get behind the wheel though and you experience a whole other level of crazy. I have driven here several times in the last few years. Mostly on the motorways or main highways that tend to have much less traffic than similar roads back home. Up until this visit though I did not do city driving. Sadly my hand was forced and for the past two days that is exactly what I have done. And I can honestly say that it was far from a relaxing experience.

Being someone who only learnt to drive 5 years ago, it has taken a while for me to enjoy driving in the UK. It’s not something I ever planned to do here. I feel far worse than I ever did as a learner driver. I don’t have a problem with it being the wrong way round. It’s more a problem that the UK car is very different well that and the state of the driving here, so I find myself sitting bolt upright and clinging to the steering wheel.

When I first came here, there were hundreds of road signs reading “Don’t be a traffic monster”, that campaign clearly has never had any impact. The attitude here seems to be that you’re a fool to obey traffic rules as that will bring about certain death, so it’s a battle of wits to drive just as badly as those around you. Preferably at double the speed limit, and as with most Europeans the horn should be hooted repeatedly. Hoot at traffic lights for people not moving off on amber, hoot if someone dares to not be going as fast as you want to-tail gating seems to be a national daredevil sport, hoot hoot hoot for anything and everything. Oh and be angry and aggressive, don’t get in without being all Rah! Oh, and particularly if you are a man there appear to be two more key rules: if anyone overtakes then you must make an attempt to race and show that you too are capable of unnecessary speed; if you are behind a lorry or large vehicle you must pass it at all costs by getting very close and regularly swinging out to see if there is any oncoming traffic. A great game of chicken for all involved on single lane trunk roads. I do so love that particular game.

You can observe all this from the passenger seat, so what difference does it make to be in the drivers seat? Apparently a lot. It’s not until you are in the drivers seat that you get ‘advice’ on your driving. Today’s gem, as a lorry decided to try and move into my lane as I was about to over take was “Just drive faster”. Hmm, yeah, like I’m going to do that! I hate passing lorries at the best of times, even though I drive a relatively large car back home. I still find it hard to judge the space between my lane and the one with the lorry in it. I always feel like I am going to get crushed, so I’m hardly likely to drive faster when I can see quite clearly that this particular truck driver has exactly that plan in mind.

Changing lanes, now that is a fun exercise. It’s something you have to do quite frequently because the right hand lane tends to be full of dolmuses stopping every two seconds, tractors, and whole variety of vehicles that would probably be deemed unroadworthy back home; modified motorbike things with trailers driven by the poverty stricken rubbish sifters, weird trikes which seem to be powered by lawn mower engines and trailers carrying large loads of fruit or some such to sell by the roadside, two wheel hand push carts loaded with stuff to sell, the list is endless.

Then there are pedestrians. Oh boy they add some excitement, that little tingle of fear that you might actually kill someone on your journey. They’re just as bonkers as the drivers. Absolutely no regard for personal safety and seem to also enjoy a good game of chicken. If they’re not sauntering across the two lane major trunk road as if they own it, they’re busy daring you by stepping out right in front of you. Or there are the lads, who want to walk three abreast regardless of whether there is actually space to do so, and you can’t change lanes because of the nut jobs packed so tightly together and speeding like maniacs.

I do love a cyclist though. No helmet, and certainly nothing remotely protective. I particularly like the wobbly ones who don’t appear to think that riding in a straight line is acceptable, who knows where they could be going next–under the wheels of your car perhaps?

Motorcyclists come in a variety of forms here, and to be honest it’s really hard not to get distracted, thus causing an accident, when you drive past and see what is on them. Standard fair are the blokes who have been given a helmet but don’t really want to wear it, so it’s perched on their head. Recently I have seen guys lovingly giving their girlfriends a pillion ride, I say lovingly because who wouldn’t give their true love their helmet? Hmm clearly not these guys, their own helmet is firmly on while their true love is bare headed. The truly great though have a competition: How many people/things can you pile onto your motorcycle. Today’s distraction was an entire family of four, nothing unusual there, unless of course you consider a babe in arms in between dad driving and mum: a perfectly normal thing to see. Gobsmacked but didn’t crash.

I survived the aggressive drivers up my bum, I survived the lorries that couldn’t decide which lane to be in, I survived the total lack of indicators. I drove quite fast, but according to their standards like a 70 year old man. I even managed a horrible junction to cross to the other side with cars racing at me round a hair pin bend. I got us to the beach but Husband had to use the horn to move a group of people who saw no reason to get out of my way when I wanted to get into the car park.

Yet after all that, there was still more fun to be had. One more crazy to be seen. A woman. A woman on a mobility scooter, yes an 8mph mobility scooter, driving along the hard shoulder (which more often than not is simply a third lane). But it got better. She’s a Turk, she has no reason to be nervous of the frenzy going on around her. This lady, on her mobility scooter, was doing what oh so many Turks at the wheel do–she was on her mobile phone. Absolutely priceless!

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Avert your eyes sensitive types

Earlier this year marathon runner, Kiran Ghandi, made a really brave decision right before she began running this year’s London Marathon. She has subsequently gone viral, and as such been the target of a great deal of abuse. I can’t say that it’s a decision I could have made, even if I did ever actually run (I don’t run, I get about 10 metres and give up, I much prefer walking), and I doubt that many of the women I know who have participated in a number of 10K’s, half or full marathons, would ever consider this. But however I feel about the decision, and it was definitely a brave one, it does make me wonder whether it has opened people’s eyes to the question of periods, menstruation, and the developing world.

Turkey certainly does not come into the same category as many countries in the world because here there are plenty of products available. Well there are in the supermarkets, but I’ve never gone deeper to question whether they are accessible or affordable to all women in more rural and poverty stricken areas. And a quick Google search only really relates this issue to subsaharan African countries or the indian sub continent. But there is most definitely one area of this country where it is an issue. Turkey now houses (tents) approximately 1.8 million Syrian refugees both in camps close to the borders and, for the more well off or fortunate refugees, throughout a number of the larger cities. Those in the camps are dependent on the aid that is sent or given to them. While  donors may think immediately of food, water, clothes, shelter, or blankets, the issue of sanitary products is often less widely mentioned.

Most women in the West forget that actually being able to go and buy whatever product suits us best is a luxury that so many other women simply do not have. In fact I get mildly irritated that I have to remember to bring a supply of Tampax with me, because they are not sold here. They used to be, years ago, but even then only certain chemists stocked them but gradually they became more and more scarce. You can get a brand of non applicator tampon here called OB, but that’s the only one you can find in the stores.

It wasn’t till the Gölcük earthquake in 1999, and large numbers of families not only losing their homes but their livelihoods too, that I first became aware of the necessity for donations  and cultural implications behind sanitary products. As in many emergency relief situations, relatively small organisations and individuals collect, organise, and frequently deliver care packages. They often contain clothes, blankets, toys etc, and in some cases even sanitary products–but not always suitable ones. Well meaning donors had sent tampons rather than towels, and I read at the time how women’s organisations were having to explain to women that they were perfectly safe for their daughters to use. The myth surrounding such products was, and probably still is, that tampons would destroy a girl’s virginity. My ex colleague Ustun explains how even she wasn’t sure how to answer their questions on this, and she is one of the most worldly, radical, progressive, and campaigning Turkish women I have been lucky enough to know and work with. Yet even she advises the women that perhaps young girls shouldn’t use them, hopefully more to protect them from future accusations and the implications that can have. How pervasive the misconception of what exactly virginity is, and what can ‘destroy’ it can be seen on numerous sites with girls questioning this.

It does sadden me that such attitudes and misconceptions continue to exist. It also saddens me that act’s like Kiran’s are met with torrents of abuse rather than shock at the issue she is trying to highlight. I have stood in a supermarket queue here, with a Turkish friend mortified that the cashier is a man, while her own sister thinks nothing of telling her dad that he should buy her a packet of Orkid as he walks out the door. Typically brilliant Turkish contrast within one family.

I’m not saying that it’s something we need to start shouting about, or wearing T-shirts to declare. Just that Kiran’s decision was extraordinarily brave, and something that needs to be considered. And if you don’t fancy donating to an organisation which helps women in countries where access to low cost products is limited or non existent, at least consider the next time there is a natural disaster, refugee crisis, or a call for aid packages to be sent across the world by a small charity, you would be giving a great deal if you donated pads.

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57, Fatso, and a bloody Guveç pot

57 views, I got 57 views! Woo hoo! Yes I am being a tad sarcastic based on how some people do post such odd milestones to show how popular they are. I, on the other hand, celebrate my invisibility. To be honest it’s not as if I’m working hard at this blogging thing, or have even really explored much about how to make my site better, mainly because that’s not the point. Regardless of whether my random witterings, moans, and occasional celebrations of my now partial life here, are of any interest to anyone I find this weird public sort of diary thing satisfying. My memory remains that poor these days that it’s a way for me to be able to look back and see things that I have forgotten, even if I haven’t really got that far in fixing my relationship with this country.

After my last post Husband said to me “You still don’t like Mersin do you?” Aside from the fact that I hadn’t mentioned any particular like or dislike for the place then, so where exactly he’d decided that was the point of the post I don’t know, the reality is a big fat no. Mersin was a choice as an means to an end. It was not a place I would cheerfully choose or suggest anyone as a place to visit, let alone live. OK there are some good points; warm, close to the sea, please let me think of some more…..I’ll save that for later, a lot later.

I do have something much better to celebrate today though. Three years (3 whole years) after I noted that there has been a distinct smell of gas, the leak has finally been found and fixed. Yay!! Perhaps bathroom tap can be fixed too, or am I pushing it a bit there. I mean I did have to point out that I had begun to feel ill, and I don’t think I was over egging the pudding to suggest that perhaps my lethargy and headache was down to the ever increasing smell of gas. I think I may have to try this tac more in the hope of more fixing being done and being listened too rather than having to point out that uneducated deliverymen are hardly worth listening when offering advice on how the smell of gas is normal during summer. I fear it may not work though, as Husband is one of the 57. There may also be repercussions, I doubt he will be as forgiving as Janey’s other half, after being mentioned here.

am I bovvered

Yeah, not bothered.

What did bother me was Fatso finding out his blog alter ego and bursting into tears. He is prone to tears and sadness, and deep felt hurt. He’s also prone to growling, major grumps and punching Lai Lai. He’s not fat, not anymore anyway, but when people offering to pick him up declare “He’s solid isn’t he?”, it’s pretty obvious he’s hefty. Thing is he grew madly last year and stretched out to become this unrecognisable skinny thing. Weirdly Smelly is perfectly happy to be called Smelly, even though he’s not, and my terrible parenting means an in joke is to ask ‘who’s the smelliest in the room?’ with him and Lai Lai clamouring to say it’s them. But Fatso was decidedly unhappy, so now I must use his family nick name of Dosh, even though it’s highly unlikely that he will ever be one of the 57.

So where does a guveç pot fit in to all of this? I really wish it didn’t, I said we had one, we didn’t need another one, that I’m not actually that fussed about bloody guveç. I was not listened too, it became essential that we venture into the bowels of inner city Mersin to find another pot. We got one, and strangely from the same shop the boys also came away with a wooden sword each. In the mysterious cave like shop which house all manner of enormous wooden spoons and aluminium pans, there was also a variety of wooden swords and the most tuneless, tasteless music boxes with bizarre orange bears on a ferris wheel and a random selection of English words on the windmill key thing. I almost got sucked in to the vortex of weirdness after spotting a saç, the thing you can make gozleme on (yeah, right, like that’s an explanation to a non Turk). Anyway, I almost bought one. Thank goodness I didn’t, what on earth would I want to lug one of those back to only use it once a year?

It seems that the guveç pot was essential because we are visiting sister-in-law tomorrow. Yep the one who told me last year I’d got fat, thankfully no repeat this year–so I clearly haven’t lost weight since then, still just fat but not fatter. I wasn’t really sure what the particulars of this invitation were but judging by the necessity of the pot, and the fact that I won’t be going to church tomorrow either (because that would mean we would be late–not quite sure how late given the lack of particulars) it would be a lunch invite. Apparently Turkish people don’t have to give particulars when inviting, especially if it’s a family thing. Which I find most odd because in my family, obviously not Turkish, we do at least say whether the invite is lunch or dinner, or a time. Turns out it’s a breakfast invite. So now I’m even more confused about the necessity of the pot. He’s in the kitchen as I type, making the guveç which won’t be for breakfast. If I type anymore I shall feel the wrath, so refer to the above photo.

I have a new pot, Fatso is Dosh, and my popularity is soaring–or perhaps not, maybe I have peaked and I have definitely just lost one.

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