Saturday, 31 July 2010

Blog problems update

Thanks to those of you who, having been unable to post comments on my blog, reported this to the Blogger Help forum.

The latest response is as follows:-

 Sounds like the individual followers have browser issues of their own that are not related to your blog specifically. They'll need to write a post on this forum as a new topic.

This is the link to the page concerned.

I'm sorry this has happened, but it would seem that it is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  Obviously some followers are able to comment which would indicate that the problem isn't with my blog.

Let's hope your individual issues can be resolved soon and I can welcome you back!

Tragedies waiting to happen

The Daily Mail today reports the tragic death of a 9 year old girl in a rafting accident in Turkey.  You can read the story here

Some years ago when Mr Ayak and I worked for a tour agency in Side, we sold white-water rafting trips.  We were forbidden to sell these trips to anyone under 18 years of age, as are the vast majority of agencies selling these activities (which is clearly reported in the article).

Naturally there are agencies who are not so reputable, who will break the rules, but often it's the people booking the trips that need to take responsibility.  Mr A and I often had arguments with tourists who were insisting that their "children" would be perfectly safe with them in a raft, and could we please "bend the rules" and let them go.  We always stuck to our guns...there is no way I would want to be  responsible for the death or serious injury of a child. We lost a number of bookings because of it...and money of course...as we were paid only commission on what we sold.

However, the Turks always want to please people, and I can just imagine them being persuaded by parents who think they know best. 

Of course, I don't know the circumstances surrounding this particular case.  It could be that the tour agency said that rafting was safe for children.  Who knows?   BUT it makes me very angry that some people seem to leave their common sense at home when they go on holiday.  Why on earth would anyone put their children at risk without researching an activity such as this first?

I'm truly sorry for the family and the loss of their child, but I would like to emphasise the fact that different countries have different safety standards.  Please don't take unnecessary risks when you're on holiday.

Soup

I was up at 5.30am as usual today.  Watered the garden, then cooked up food for the dogs and made some mercimek (lentil) soup.  I'm doing most of my cooking very early in the morning before it gets too hot to use the kitchen.

The rent for the hamam was due today.  I had been keeping the money at home and Mr Ayak would have collected it last night, or I would have taken it over to the hotel today.

However the General Manager decided that he wanted it yesterday.  Mr A phoned me at 3pm to tell me.  He couldn't get away, so I had to make the journey over on the bus.  I caught the village bus at 4pm, then the Bodrum bus, arriving  just after 5pm, and Mr A met me at the bus station.  I handed over the money, and got on the next bus which set off at 5.15pm.  After waiting half an hour for the village bus, I finally arrived home just before 7pm.

We hadn't managed to raise the entire amount for the rent, in fact we only just managed about two-thirds of it.  But Mr A phoned later to say that everything was fine...as usual he won't go into details, but he sounded quite happy.  And fortunately the grumpiness had disappeared and he seemed to be back to his normal pleasant self.

So...I am on an economy drive for the next few weeks, because there is absolutely no spare money at all, and I will just have to make do with whatever food I have in the freezer and cupboards.

There I was...making mercimek soup this morning....and lots of memories came flooding back.

I've always loved soup.  When I was at school, and my grandparents were still alive, they lived just down the road from us.  Monday night was soup night at my grandmother's house.  I would call in after school.  There would be my grandfather, sitting by the fire in his flat cap, polishing horse brasses.  He was a groom in his younger days, and he had collected hundreds of horse brasses, and loved to see them gleaming.

My grandmother would be out in the kitchen re-heating the wonderful oxtail soup that she made every week.  My grandfather and I would sit together eating this delicious soup from large earthenware bowls, with lots of chunky bread.  It was the best soup I have ever had in my life.  I've tried to make it myself, but I've never managed to make it like my grandmother did.

My mother made soup from leftover chicken bones and vegetables.  I do the same.  I always have chicken stock in cartons in the freezer, which is what I used for my mercimek soup this morning.

The Turks are a nation of soup eaters.  There are soup kitchens dotted about in most towns, that stay open all night.  When Mr Ayak and I first got together we travelled by bus along the south coast from Alanya to Bodrum, stopping off at different places for a few days.  It was the end of summer, and we had decided to do this for a month or so, for me to see something of the country, and for us to decide where we would like to settle.  There are several stops on the long bus journeys, to enable passengers to eat, and we always had soup.   I almost always had mercimek, which would be served with a drizzle of hot melted butter on top and a sprinkling of red pepper, accompanied by a dish of fresh rocket, onions and hot peppers, lemon wedges and  lots of bread.

When Mr Ayak and I lived in Side, Antalya, we worked for a tour agency.  We worked exceptionally long hours.  16 hour days, 7 days a week, so we almost always visited a soup kitchen around 2am, before getting a few hours sleep. 

And the Turks often eat soup for breakfast..something I found odd at first, but have got used to...and now enjoy. 

There's nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup in winter...but soup is very much an all-year-round food here...so in summer we just eat it warm rather than hot.

I rather enjoy economising.  I like the challenge of making delicious meals from simple, cheap ingredients...and my love of soup means that this was the first thing I made today.

(My very simple recipe for mercimek soup can be found here)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Just imagine...

....you set off for the bus.  It arrives.  You get on with everyone else and set off on your journey.  You are perhaps a kilometre down the road, and the driver's mobile phone rings.  He stops and answers it, then turns the bus around and drives back to the village  bus stop,  and picks up another passenger.  She had missed the bus.  Someone from the teahouse phoned the bus driver to ask him to return to collect her.

It's normal here...no-one bats an eyelid.  Nor do they if the driver makes a detour several kilometres off his route to drop someone off at another village, because they are either elderly, infirm, or just have a lot of shopping, or bags of fertiliser.

Imagine waiting at the bus station in the hot sun, where the only shade to be found is outside a cafe with tables and chairs.  The owner calls you over to sit at a table to take shelter.  He doesn't expect you to buy anything...in fact he brings out water for you to drink, and wouldn't dream of charging you.

Imagine going into a shop for something specific, to find that they don't have it.  Instead of you looking elsewhere, the shopkeeper says take a seat, brings you tea, and he goes off to another shop to find what you want.

Imagine going to check your box at the post office, to find it empty.  You start to walk away, but one of the men from the sorting office comes out, asks you to take a seat and drink tea, while he checks through all the sacks that have just arrived, to see if there's anything for you.

All these things happened yesterday morning.  I could go on about how the Turks go out of their way to be of help...the list is endless.  I have never known another race who are so genuinely kind, willing and unselfish.

Imagine any of this happening in your country...or maybe it does...tell me about it.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sünnet (circumcision)

It's that time of the year.  The long summer holiday from school is the ideal time for young boys to be circumcised.  There have been three Sünnet celebrations in the village this week.  Drums beating, flutes playing, processions of cars sounding their horns, and generally a good time had by all...except perhaps the boy who is undergoing the Sünnet!

This extract from MyMerhaba (a forum for foreigners living in Turkey) explains the Sünnet:


"Circumcision is performed on about 1/7th of the world's male population. Circumcision is performed in Turkey for religious reasons. The advantages and disadvantages of circumcision have been debated for centuries. The main points of conflict revolve around whether or not to operate and the appropriate age for circumcision. Turks defer male circumcision until the age of six or seven, thus turning it from a birth ritual into a coming-of-age ordeal. As a tradition circumcision takes place during odd-numbered ages. On the day of the event, the boys dress in white and red ribbons and ride flower-bedecked donkeys or cars to the ceremony.


When the circumcision is completed, the young boy's "status" changes drastically: ribbons removed, they hold escort like kings on lavishly decorated beds, receiving compliments and gifts. Celebration of ritual circumcision is usually held after schools go on vacation or in the fall, close to the opening of schools. A boy who will be circumcised is called Sünnet Çocuğu (Child of Circumcision).

NOTE: It is appropriate to give a Cumhuriyet Altını (gold coin) or a watch as a gift to the boy in accordance to your relationship with him or his parents.

Tradition on Ritual Circumcision

Preparations for circumcision start early. An elaborate circumcision outfit and clothes for relatives of the child are bought by his father. A few days before the circumcision ceremony, he visits his relatives and neighbors in his circumcision outfit and kisses their hands. Every person whose hand is kissed customarily gives money to the boy. The circumcision hat is blue to protect him from evil eyes. In front of the hat a ribbon with the inscription Maşallah (Wonderful, May God avert the evil eye) is placed.

On the day of circumcision, guests come together and chant Mevlit and eat a meal while waiting for the arrival of the circumcised boy.

In villages in Anatolia, the young boy, before being circumcised, travels on horse back or by a procession consisting of cars, in and around the village. The boy is brought into the circumcision hall just before noon and does not dismount from his horse or get out from car until he receives money from his father. His father gives him a present and then circumcision ceremony starts.

During the circumcision ceremony the boy will have beside him a Kirve which is equivalent of a "Godfather" in Christianity. It is common to hear Oldu da bitti Maşallah (Well, it is all over and done) or Allahüekber (God is the greatest)

The boy who has just been circumcised wears a long and loose dress and is gently placed upon a very ornamented bed prepared in one corner of the home, to rest and recover. After having lunch, women and men customarily give presents to the child and stand beside his bed saying “everything remained in the past, you will gain your health soon”. Afterwards, the entertainment begins and continues often until late in the evening"

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Blog Problems today

I've been informed by Heiko and French Fancy that they were unable to post comments on my blog today.  Also Heiko mentions that it's scrolling slowly.

I've had comments from other followers today, and no-one else has mentioned any problems.

I've posted on the Blogger Help forum that some followers are unable to comment, but as yet I've had no response.

If anyone else is having problems, could you let me know please, with details, so that I can try and resolve this.

Thanks x


29.7.2010   Follow-up

I've received a response from Blogger Help as follows:

"Thanks for reporting this issue that some of your followers have had commenting on your site. Looks like comments are working again on your blog, as confirmed by many of your readers :). Do you know if any of the original people who reported the issue to you are still having issues?"

Can I suggest that Heiko and French Fancy...and anyone else still experiencing problems...report the problems here as it would appear that the problem isn't with my blog.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Now...how does that old song go?

Ah yes..."You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all......."

I've lost count of the number of times in my life that those words have popped into my head.  At times when I feel hurt by someone who loves me...and also when I've hurt someone I love.

The words are so true aren't they?   And I believe it's because those we love and are really close to, are those who we feel comfortable enough to just be ourselves.  It's a case of letting one's guard down, ranting and raving and saying something hurtful, without thinking first.   And it's always regretted later.

It happens with Mr Ayak and I from time to time, as I imagine it happens with most married couples.  It sometimes happens between my daughter and I.  Fortunately we are all  willing apologisers...so the feeling doesn't last for too long.

Those words popped up again today...well in fact a couple of times over the past week or so.    I made the journey over to the hotel again today in the gruelling heat, only to be met by a grumpy, stressed and quite unbearable Mr A.   He was moaning at Mehmet and Erhan about trivial things...they both looked at me and raised their eyebrows.   Then it was my turn.   It seemed that every time I said something, Mr A came back with a hurtful retort.   After a while, my responses towards him also became hurtful.  Once you're on that damned merry-go-round, it's quite difficult to get off!

So I cut the visit short.  I wasn't prepared to take any more.  Mr A gave me a lift back on the motorbike to Bodrum bus station.  We both mumbled our goodbyes,  and I caught the bus back home...trying desperately not to cry.

During the journey I decided to text him to say that even though I understood he was stressed, there was no need for him to take it out on me.  Before I had chance to send it, I received a text from him saying "I'm sorry".  I sent my message anyway, and he replied saying "I shouldn't be treating you like this...I'm really sorry".  And then I did cry...tears of relief...because I absolutely hate bad feeling between us. 

He has phoned me three times since I got home...for no particular reason...he's just checking to make sure I've forgiven him!


***************

PS...Because I have arthritis, practically all over my body, I do get a fair few aches and pains.  This past week my left wrist and thumb have been excrutiatingly painful, and I've had to avoid lifting with my left hand, or moving my thumb too much.  I've been using ibubrofen cream, but it doesn't help.

Today Mehmet massaged my wrist, thumb and hand for about half an hour...and I am absolutely amazed at the improvement.  There is only very slight discomfort now, no pain, and I can move my thumb properly.

Mehmet has healing hands...what a treasure he is!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dogs, apples, bread and motorbikes.

I was having a strange conversation with my neighbour, Şevke, yesterday.  I've mentioned before that  my Turkish leaves a lot to be desired.  I  think I understand what's being said, but I often get it wrong.

It started out with Şevke handing me a bottle of her lovely olive oil over the wall, which I had asked her for earlier in the day.  She asked me why the dogs were staying in the house at the moment.  I explained that they were both in season (I had previously had to look up the word for season/menstruating...so I knew I had it right).  I said it was because of all the visits by the stray dogs in the village, and I didn't want to risk unwanted pregnancies. 

Now you are probably thinking that because of the way I've been describing the conversation,  it looks like  my Turkish is fluent...it's not...my sentences consist of random words thrown together, with little respect for grammar, and together with a lot of waving of arms and hand gestures, I manage to make myself understood.  I went on to say that I would be looking for a good vet soon, because I ought to have them both speyed.

Şevke then started to tell me that an operation wasn't necessary....and (I think) she was suggesting either a method of contraception, or a deterrent,  involving apples and bread.  Yes I know...I've admitted I often misunderstand Turkish, but I do know the words for apples and bread, and I did get her to repeat what she said...twice.

BUT I didn't actually grasp what I was supposed to do with the apples and bread.  So not wishing to exasperate the poor woman, I gave up.   Maybe it's an old wives' tale...there are a lot of strange ones here.

**********************

Changing the subject .....(but I'll come back to it if I ever find out about apples, bread and bitches in season),
Mr Ayak phoned yesterday to say he had decided to pop home last night.  He planned to leave around 11pm so would be home about midnight. He is very much a night person, so I knew we would probably be up chatting for hours...a good opportunity to discuss the business.  So as I'm more a morning person, I had a nap early evening to make sure I was alert when he arrived.

Well,  at 11.15pm he phoned to say the motorbike wouldn't start.  He phoned a mechanic friend who was happy to come out and have a look, and it was eventually fixed just after 1am.   He set off and at around 2am, had just passed the airport, when the back tyre burst.  Not a good time to find a new tyre...and he was miles from any sign of life.  So he pushed the motorbike as far as Koru.  I'm not sure of the distance but it's probably about 5 km from the airport, and another 6 or 7km away from our village.

I had dropped off to sleep on the sofa, but was woken up by my mobile phone containing a text message from him.  It was now around 4.30am, and he just had to sit and wait outside a tyre shop until they opened....hoping of course that they would be open on a Sunday morning.

Eventually he arrived home just after 7 am, having managed to locate the owner of the shop, who hadn't intended to open, but like most Turks was happy to help.  

We chatted for all of 10 minutes,  but he was exhausted, and in no mood to discuss the business.  He just said "don't worry..I'll sort it out".   I know from years of experience, that there is no point in my pursuing this any further.   He's keeping it all inside.  I wish he would share his problems...but he thinks he is doing the right thing in shutting me out.  

We had some breakfast and he went off to bed and slept until around 3pm.  He then took me into Milas to get some food shopping, and then he set off back to the hotel.  

I'm left feeling that this was a rare opportunity to try to sort out some of the problems...but again circumstances prevented it from happening.   Although there was one consolation...at least he managed to get some much needed sleep....which I hope will help him to see things more clearly.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

One week to go...

...before the rent on the Hamam premises has to be paid.

We have just over half the money, but I think we may need a miracle to raise the rest before the 31st July.

The hotel is full...of people who don't appear to want to spend any money.  They've paid for their all-inclusive holiday and are very reluctant to put their hands in their pockets for anything else.

It's not just our business that has been affected.  I've been over there twice this week, and the local businesses are all suffering.  Shops, restaurants and bars are empty.  They all have large signs up offering cut price drinks and meals, and all kinds of incentives to attract customers, but it's just not happening.

This is...or should be...the busiest time of the season.   It's the time when anyone involved in the tourist industry HAS to earn money to survive through the long winter months.   There are going to be a lot of hungry and homeless people towards the end of the year.  Thank goodness we have a house to live in.  Those people who are renting are going to find it extremely difficult.

Mr Ayak has made a supreme effort to remain on good terms with the General Manager, in the hope that he will accept whatever we can manage to pay on the 31st, and perhaps wait a bit longer for the rest.  But there are no guarantees.  Even if he does agree...how can we possibly know if business will pick up next month?

The two young men Sinan and Davut were laid off just over a week ago.  They were not pulling their weight...they were more interested in pulling girls!  They should have been out with the leaflets promoting the business, but each time I arrived I discovered them lurking in corners where they couldn't be seen by Mr A or Mehmet, or chatting to girls.

A new boy, Erhan, started last week and he is very enthusiastic.  On his first day he cleaned the hamam from top to bottom, and it was spotless.  He doesn't waste time either..he's out and about with leaflets chatting to guests...he's doing his best.  A couple of days ago a girl arrived who is the daughter of a friend of Mr A's from Izmir.  She does massage, but also offers pedicure, manicure and eyebrow shaping using the cottoning method.  It's early days for her, but maybe these additional services will help to bring in more customers.

Mr Ayak is very stressed at the moment.  I'm finding it difficult to have a conversation with him about anything.  He's at the hamam from dawn till way past midnight, and he's not sleeping.

I'm trying to be optimistic but it's not easy.  I think the business may fail....but I'm not giving up hope completely until the end of the week.  I don't regret Mr A's attempts at getting this business off the ground.  I've worried about it from the outset, because I know how difficult it is to make a success of anything in this country. 

But I'm not one for "if onlys"...If you don't try things then you'll never know if they will work.  Life's all about taking risks isn't it?

 

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Naughty Step

I've been tagged by the lovely  'Cross the Pond to think of someone to put on the Naughty Step.  Cross the Pond actually chose Mel Gibson, which might well have been my choice.  Bombshellicious has chosen Katie Price, and almost chose Kerry Katona...two more very worthy contenders for the Naughty Step.

My choice is Liam Gallagher.  (My daughter won't like my choice because she adores him...sorry Stella).  But he really is the archetypal naughty boy isn't he? 

If you're not completely au faix with his antics you can read more here.

Nevertheless, in spite of his bad behaviour, I do think he is immensely talented and I'm very sorry that Oasis split up.  I love all their music.  My daughter and son-in-law (both huge fans) even had "Love Like a Bomb" (their favourite Oasis song) engraved inside their wedding rings!

But he could do with some time on the Naughty Step.

I should now nominate some of my blogger friends to think of someone they would like to put on the Naughty Step, but actually I'd like to hear from all of you on this one please...either as a comment here or, if you have lots to write about...do a blog post....I can't wait to read about your choices!

One of my favourite old photos

This is a very old grainy photo...a copy of a copy of a copy.....I'm hoping it's one of the photos my brother is currently restoring because it's one I love. It's me with my two younger brothers.

I was about 9 or 10 years old as I recall, and I remember very clearly this photo being taken by a professional photographer who came to the house.

And I remember details quite vividly.  Even though it's a black and white photo, I remember that the dress I was wearing was a turquoise one...my favourite at the time.  And my baby brother was wearing what was known in those days as a romper suit.   It was almost like a dress, except that it fastened underneath with buttons....and it had smocking along the front (does anyone remember smocking?) which I think my mother did.

The sofa we were sitting on was very old, and the striped material along the back was part of an old curtain that my mother had placed there to cover the worn bits.

Isn't it strange...the things we remember when we look at old photos?

Monday, 19 July 2010

The best time of the day


The best time of the day in the middle of summer is around 5.30am just as the sun begins to rise above the mountains in the distance.   It's quiet...except for the noises of the animals...and it's the only time it's cool.   So this it the time I water the garden, then grab a coffee and sit outside for half an hour.  And that's all it is....half an hour of coolness before the intense heat builds up all over again.


Friday, 16 July 2010

O Magazine

One thing I miss about living in the UK is buying magazines.

Not that I bought them regularly, but on the odd occasion I enjoyed magazines such as SHE and Homes and Gardens, and a few others.

A few years ago when I was living in Göreme, I decided to take out a subscription to a magazine on line.  I searched for the UK magazines that I liked and was about to place an order when I discovered how much I would be charged for delivery to Turkey.  I can't remember the figures off hand but in every case the delivery costs were at least, if not more, than the cost of a year's subscription.

So I decided it was just too extravagant.   I happened to borrow a copy of O Magazine from a friend and I really enjoyed it.  It had some good articles, as well as fashion, recipes, health issues, etc.  In fact it was far better than I had imagined it would be.  So I searched Oprah's website and found the subscription page, and was delighted to learn how inexpensive a year's subscription would be.  The price was in dollars, but it amounted to a total of around 20 pounds...for a whole year, including delivery!

I went ahead and placed my order, and waited 4 weeks for the first issue.  I was a little unsure about whether it would arrive, or even if subsequent issues might go astray, as the post here is very unpredictable.  But each issue was delivered by courier...and not by post.   After the first couple of months, we moved to Selçuk, and I notified the subscriptions department of my new address.  There was no delay and the rest of the issues continued to be delivered on time every month.

I must have been busy with other things around the time of renewing my subscription, because it slipped my mind.  I always meant to renew it but haven't got round to it until now.

Considering 4 or 5 years has elapsed since my last subscription I expected the price to have increased substantıally, but its now only the equivalent of 26 pounds...which I think is pretty good.

Before ordering the magazine again, I checked out some of the UK magazine subscriptions again...and they are still so expensive...way beyond my means.

It is a luxury as far as I am concerned...but I do love the excitement at receiving a new magazine every month...so I decided I would treat myself.

Can't wait for the first copy to arrive!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

It's practical joke day...right?

Do you ever have one of those days?  When you think someone's playing practical jokes on you?  

I awoke this morning to no water...again.   No matter, I'm used to it.  I was up very early as usual and switched on my laptop.  Was logged on for about half an hour when my internet connection was lost.

OK...no problem...I have things to do.  Out came the vacuum cleaner and no sooner had I plugged it in than the power was cut.

So...no water...no electricity and no internet connection.   I went back to bed for an hour or so.

The power and the water returned shortly after.  I switched on the laptop...still no internet.  I loaded up the washing machine, and went off to have a shower.   I started to wash my hair, just had the shampoo nicely lathered, was about to rinse it off, when the water was cut again.  I wasn't about to use my precious bottled water to rinse it so I wrapped my head in a towel and got dressed.  Switched off the washing machine which was mid-cycle and making awful noises because of the lack of water.

I switched on the laptop again and still no internet.   So I phoned TTNet to see if I could find out what the problem was.  They informed me that there was a problem in my area and it was being worked on...and that it could be off all day.   I then tried to ring Mr Ayak at work on the landline, and it just died on me.  No doubt the men working on the internet connection are messing about with the phone lines as well.   OK...I thought...I'll ring him on my mobile...no chance...no signal!

The temperature is rising here...it's over 100 F now.  I switched on the aircon, did the vacuuming, then settled down to watch DVDs on my laptop.   About an hour later...guess what?   The water returned and the electricity supply was cut.  So I rinsed my hair, and continued to watch DVDs on the laptop until the battery finally ran out....sweating profusely of course because of the lack of aircon.

The electricity supply returned around 1pm...thank goodness...as I was rapidly melting in the heat.   I was connected to the internet again at around 3pm, but the phone is still not working.

It just feels like I have been the victim of a huge practical joke today...and I'm not laughing!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The great unwashed

One thing I've learned in 12 years of living here, is that many Turks...particularly village dwellers...put personal hygiene way down on their list of priorities.

I always shower once a day, usually in the morning, but at this time of the year, twice a day is essential. 

We do get an awful lot of water cuts (and power cuts) particularly in the summer, so if we have water late at night, I take a shower,  because you can bet your life there won't be water first thing in the morning.

I needed to go into Milas early this morning....as early as possible to avoid the heat.  I woke up to no water.  I don't like going out of the house without at least washing my face and cleaning my teeth, and if necessary I'll use bottled water to do this, but this morning I had none.  So out came the wet wipes for the face...I always keep a supply handy, for using as a handwash after the toilet or before handling food.  And I had to make do with chewing-gum instead of brushing my teeth.

My neighbours of course, don't worry about such things...whether they have running water or not.  This is a farming community so their crops and animals are the priority when it comes to water.  Many of them seem to work and sleep in the same clothes.  Even on the rare occasion that they take a shower, they will more often than not, put the same clothes back on again, unwashed.

You could forgive them for being unwashed because of the shortage of water in the summer, but they have another excuse in the winter...they think that taking a shower will make them sick.

So travelling on a crowded dolmuş in this heat is not for the faint-hearted...or those of you, like me, who have a sensitive sense of smell.  This morning was one of those mornings, the heat was making me feel sick, but even worse was the smell of the passengers.  I was fortunate to find a seat next to a window...but that's another thing...no matter how stiflingly hot it is inside the bus, these bloody people won't let you have the window open more than an inch...why?  Because they think it will make them sick!

They're not all like this of course.  My husband hates being smelly..he'll shower a couple of times a day, but I did notice that when his father stayed the time before last, for a period of about 5 days, that he didn't shower while he was here...because the weather was cold.

Even though I had showered last night, I still felt uncomfortable about leaving the house unwashed this morning...I needn't have worried...I was most definitely the sweetest smelling passenger on the bus!

Monday, 12 July 2010

The beginning of another week

It's 6.00am...Monday morning...the start of another week.  I've been up for an hour, just to stand outside and try to breathe in some air.  The heat is relentless, and this is the only time of the day when I'm able to cool down just a little.

Poppy came into season just over a week ago...Beki followed suit a week later.   Which means of course that it will be a total of four weeks of my having to keep them confined to the house.  There are just too many street dogs around, managing to find their way into the garden day and night, for me to risk letting my girls out in the garden unless I'm there to watch them.

These pics are of a cat and her kittens...they're not very clear I'm afraid, as they were taken on Mr A's mobile phone.   The heavily pregnant cat was discovered by Mr Ayak some weeks ago at the hotel, looking quite distressed, so he found her somewhere sheltered in the hotel grounds, where she would feel safe to give birth, and he has been feeding her ever since.  People often laugh at Mr Ayak's obsession with stray cats and dogs.  The Turks as a rule just consider strays as vermin.   His compassion for animals is one of the things I love about him.  He always makes sure...like I do...that containers of water are left out for the strays...particularly in this weather, and that any scraps of food we have are given to them.




I've been travelling over to the hotel on the bus a fair amount during the past week.  I hate the journey, which involves 3 buses, but waiting around in the hot sun is the worst thing....and it takes a minimum of an hour and a half to get there...and even longer to get back home.  However, the buying of a car has had to be put on hold for the time being.  We are concentrating on making sure that the balance of the rental on the premises is paid by the end of the month.  We don't want to give the GM any ammunition at this point in time. 

I also paid another visit to the dentist on Friday. I had some x-rays taken and it has been agreed that I need some bridge and crown work done...four new crowns in all.   One of the teeth also has to be repaired as there is some damage, and it needs to be reinforced to take the crown.  It's an expensive process (relatively speaking) and with a bit of the usual Turkish negotiation, he has agreed a total price of 600 ytl.  No doubt those of you living in the UK, will be shocked to learn that this amounts to around 240 pounds...a hell of a lot cheaper isn't it?

Well...none of this is urgent...and we have more important bills to pay first, so I will be contacting him again in about a month to start treatment.  In the meantime I had the best scale and polish I have ever had in my life.  For the initial consultation, filing down the damaged tooth on the first visit, second visit, x-rays, scale and polish...he charged me just 50 ytl...about 20 pounds!   No wonder dental package holidays in Turkey are so popular!

And now it's 6.30am.  I'm about to shower, then catch a bus at 7.45am into Milas to the post office.  Then I will get on the bus to Bodrum, followed by the dolmuş to Bitez, to spend another few hours with Mr Ayak, before making the return journey all over again. 

The new week starts here...and I am still feeling more optimistic...let's hope it lasts!








Saturday, 10 July 2010

Optimism


Optimism....you need shedloads of it to live in Turkey. 

Life here is full of disappointments and setbacks.  If the Turks weren't forever optimistic, they would never cope with what life throws at them.

I'm always amazed at the way they can turn anything negative completely on it's head and always believe that things will get better.  No wonder they are in general such a happy race.

I hadn't planned to visit Mr Ayak at work today, because I was there yesterday, but I saw him after the meeting with the General Manager and how angry he was.  He phoned me later in the evening when I was at home, and he was all for wanting to kill the GM.  I can't say I blame him.  Of course he doesn't mean actually "kill" him, but it is quite common for a Turkish man to hit another man if he feels he has been treated badly.  I don't condone violence, but I can understand how satisfying it must be to just punch someone and get it out of your system.

So I decided another trip over there today was necessary.  I thought it might be useful if I could calm him down and prevent him from hitting anyone.  We had a long chat about the situation, and then Mr A phoned his cousin who is a solicitor. I'm pleased we have this huge extended family, with a variety of skills and expertise, who are only too willing to help.

She went through the contract with Mr Ayak, and says the General Manager doesn't have a leg to stand on.  That is...he cannot force Mr A to close up at 9.00pm every evening.  In fact he cannot make any demands on him at all as the business is entirely seperate.  She says he should sit tight.  As long as he pays the balance of the rental, which is due at the end of this month, then he is entitled to run his business the way he sees fit, without any interference.  She is coming over on Thursday, to stay with Mr A's cousin in the hotel opposite, and if necessary she will sit in with Mr A if he wishes to have a further meeting with the GM.

It is rather sad that the GM and Mr Ayak are actually old friends from way back.  They grew up in the same village, and it was the GM who had offered the contract to Mr A in the first place.  Unfortunately, it would seem that the GM has put greed before friendship.

I think strong words...possibly threats...from Mr A must have been made last night, because today the GM is all sweetness and light.  He walked past me on his way somewhere today...waved and smiled, and said how are you?  I of course reciprocated in similar fashion.  He is behaving similarly towards Mr A today, who, as yet is unable to manage anymore than a scowl!  But he'll get there...I just say to him...keep smiling...you'll win and he will lose.

I think this is the way we have to play it.  Mr A thankfully agrees with me.  He and his boys will now work flat out over the next 20 days to make sure that they earn enough money to pay the rent.  Once that's out of the way, any money coming in will at last be going into our pockets.

So we are a little more optimistic today.   Wish us luck please!

Friday, 9 July 2010

All Inclusive Holidays

All inclusive holidays have only really taken off in Turkey in recent years.   It's never been something that has appealed to me, particularly when holidaying in a different country.  I always think it's a bit of a shame to spend an entire holiday confined to one hotel, and being restricted by mealtimes etc.  Surely the joy of travelling abroad is to experience as much of the country and culture as possible.   And that means getting out and about and just using the hotel as a base. 

It would seem however that the all inclusive holiday is popular with lots of people.  I suppose those on a strict budget, will find it easier to pay one price, and know that they don't need extra money for food and drinks.

Turkey has given in to the demand for all-inclusive deals, but a little reluctantly I think.  It's certainly an unpopular concept with local businesses...restaurants, bars, shops, etc and as a result many have closed down in recent years.

When Mr Ayak negotiated the deal on his Hamam business with the hotel in Bitez, he was of course aware that this was an all-inclusive hotel.  It would, you would think, be to his advantage....the hotel guests being on site for the duration of the holiday, would provide him with potential customers.

Unfortunately, things are never quite what they appear to be. 

Firstly, without wishing to offend any nationality (so I won't mention any specifically), it is well known in this country that certain nationalities don't like to spend money when they are on holiday.  Naturally the all-inclusive deal suits them fine.  Mr Ayak is aware of those nationalities who are likely to spend money on Hamam, massage, etc...and those that are not.  All of this was discussed before signing the contract.  The General Manager, who knew exactly which nationalities had booked for the season, assured Mr Ayak that the majority of guests were from countries who would spend money.

He was lying...the majority are in fact those people who don't spend money on extras.  With a little luck and a lot of hard work, Mr Ayak and his personnel have at least managed to sell their services to as many hotel guests as is humanly possible...but considering the very high rent being charged by the General Manager, they are struggling somewhat.

Another issue has arisen.  It would seem that the General Manager has instructed his staff to encourage guests to go out of the hotel.  Well...from a personal point of view..this is not a bad thing, because they will at least see a bit of the area.   However...this is not the General Manager's motive for doing this.  He is trying to restrict  the dishing out of "free" drinks.   Well of course they aren't free as such...they are included in the package. 

He has taken it one step further.  The bar is now closed at 9.00pm every evening.  Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?  As if people on holiday would be happy to stop drinking at 9.00pm!   So from this time onwards the hotel is empty.   It's a blow for Mr Ayak, because a lot of their customers were coming to the Hamam mid-evening,  finding it a relaxing way to end the day.

Mr Ayak had a meeting with the General Manager today, who insisted that Mr Ayak close the Hamam at 9.00pm every evening.  Mr Ayak said he was not prepared to do that.  He also pointed out that the GM had misled him about the type of customers, and had certainly not made it known that guests would be encouraged to go out of the hotel as much as possible.   Mr Ayak is being charged a very high rent for the premises...and  there has been downright dishonesty at play here. In a nutshell...Mr Ayak is being ripped off...big time!

The meeting today brought no satisfaction or even compromise on the part of the GM..so Mr A has reluctantly given a month's notice to terminate the contract.

Naturally he is extremely disappointed, but he is already starting to look around at other possibilities.  He had planned to go to Istanbul to rent similar premises for the winter...but he may well bring this forward.  At least Istanbul has year-round tourists.

Nothing is ever straightforward in Turkey.  There are always disappointments and setbacks.  I am trying not to worry about it all.  Mr A could of course have bowed down to the General Manager, but someone has to make a stand and stick with what is right.  And in spite of the problems we will no doubt face soon, I admire him for standing his ground, and he has my full support...as always!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Lovely Birthday

Mr Ayak had hoped to come home on Tuesday night to be with me for my birthday yesterday morning.  However, the search for a car is still ongoing, so it wasn't to be.  It has been so long since we spent my birthday together....July being in the middle of the tourist season has made it virtually impossible most years.

So I travelled over to the hotel on the bus, and had a very enjoyable time.  Mr A knows how much I miss conversation with English people, and there don't seem to have been many staying at the hotel.  He introduced me to a couple yesterday, who he instinctively knew I would like...and he was right.  We hit it off immediately, and felt like we had known each other for years.  Don't you just love it when that happens?

Mr A had bought a birthday cake, with candles and sparklers, and the English couple, Zoe and Kris, the hamam boys, Mr A and I all tucked in.  We started off drinking Fanta, but Kris and Zoe went off to get glasses of wine from the bar, which really helped to wash down the cake!

Mr Ayak bought me a lovely delicate gold chain.  I used to have one some time ago (which he had also bought me) but I lost it, so it's lovely to have one to replace it.  I don't wear much jewellery as a rule, but do love a fine gold chain round my neck.

We took a few photos, but they weren't brilliant.  This is the delicious birthday cake (bananas and walnuts):


There is a professional photographer resident at the hotel, and as a birthday present he took a few photos of Mr A and I.  I am delighted because Mr A and I haven't had a photo taken together since we got married over 11 years ago, and they were pretty awful.    These arent bad at all:



So after a few hours of very pleasant company, I set off back home on the bus.   One of my best birthdays ever! 

Steroids

No doubt many of you, or at least those living in the UK,  are following the news reports about Raoul Moat


This story is very disturbing. One thing that really bothers me is the fact that he is addicted to steroids and the effect they have on a person's state of mind as well as the obvious physical effects.


Before I worked in the mental health field, I worked with young people coming out of the care system. One of my clients was a young man who was addicted to steroids. His story was a tragic one. He was systematically abused by both parents from an early age. He ended up in care and at the age of 16 started bodybuilding and using steroids. He also changed his name. In effect he was trying to become a totally different person...as if this would wipe out the past.

Does anyone remember the "strongest men" competitions on TV? Run by Geoff Capes? My client started entering them and reached a pretty high level. I knew him from the age of 17 and could see the change in him, the more hooked he became on steroids. The aggression is unbelievable...and the steroids provide all this extra strength that, if the mind is unbalanced, can have devastating results.

At the age of 21, he was taking part in a round of the competition up in Edinburgh and he collapsed on the field and died instantly. The doctors said the strain on his heart from the steroids was so bad that although appearing to be physically fit...he had the heart of a 70 year old.

What a waste...he was highly intelligent, a gifted artist, and in his more "normal" moods one of the gentlest, kindest young men you could meet....but at his worst, extremely aggressive and intimidating.

This ongoing story about Moat has brought it all back..one of the unhappiest times of my career.

I strongly believe that Moat's abuse of steroids has contributed to his actions.
 
Are they banned in the UK?  I'm really not sure...if they're not ..... they should be!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Comments not appearing on blogs

I'm getting email notifications of comments on my blog post this morning but they are not actually appearing on my blog.

I've been to the Blog help page and it seems that it is a widespread problem at the moment, so I'm just letting anyone who reads here know that if it's happening to them...they're not alone!

I'll update this post if I find out what the problem is, or if it's resolved at some point

Update:  I'm still receiving email notifications of comments on my blog posts but they are still not appearing.  Anyone else having the same problem?  Just post a comment on this post...it won't appear but I will get an email notification of it.  I'm saving all comments by the way and will post them up myself if necessary.

Problem now resolved.  It would seem that if enough people complain on the Blogger Help page (and an awful lot did) then something is eventually done!

There comes a time...

...when you realise you can't do all the things you want to.   Age creeps up on you mostly without you realising.  I'll be having another birthday tomorrow.  Is it me?  Or do birthdays seem to get closer together as you're getting older?

I'm still in my 20s in my head...until I look in the mirror and recognise that I'm not.   I wish I could still move about as fast as I used to.  I'd love to be able to run for the bus without feeling as if all my internal organs are jumping about and swapping places with each other.  I'd like to skip up this hill to our house without feeling as if I'm going to pass out with exhaustion.

I've never been one to worry about how ageing affects my physical appearance.  I'm not a vain person.  I have no problem in accepting  this part of ageing.  I'd never in a million years go under the surgeon's knife or try botox or liposuction...or any of those things that people do to slow down the ageing process.  I don't mind the wrinkles...I think they add character.  I don't even mind that everything starts to sag eventually.  After all it's only the surface isn't it?  It's what's beneath that really counts.

 But if someone offered me a pill that would give me the same energy that I used to have...then I would definitely take it.  Just so that I don't have to eventually accept growing old gracefully.

It's so important to stay as active as possible, and this is something that has been lacking in my life since last year.  I do like to work.  Mr Ayak would like me more involved in the business.   On my visits there, he is happy for me to try to encourage his personnel to work a bit harder.  They do seem to spend a lot of time just hanging around aimlessly.  So I point out that the hamam could do with an extra clean, that they need to be handing out more leaflets, etc.   Mr A is a bit soft but I'm firmer, and they seem to take notice of me.  If we have to play "good cop..bad cop" to get the business going, then that's OK with me.

Mr A, with the help of one of his boys, Sinan (who is good when it comes to mechanics), have been looking around for a car over the past couple of days.  Mr A and I have pooled our limited resources and come up with about 1500 lira between us...2000 at a push, which we hope will be sufficient for a deposit.  It will be an old vehicle, but as long as the engine is good, it will do.  

Once we have a vehicle, I will be able to go into work with him as often as I like.  When the dogs have finished being in season, they can go back outside.  Poppy in her house and run, and Beki the entire garden, with plenty of shady areas.

Mr A will also be relieved to come home every night.  He is not getting very much sleep at the moment.  He is paying for personnel accommodation for him, Mehmet and 3 boys, and I've seen it...it's pretty grim and way over-priced.   Five of them are sleeping in one tiny room in 3 single beds pushed together plus 2 bunk beds.  No wonder Mr A is getting no sleep.

If we have a car, Mr A can find accommodation for them on the outskirts of the tourist area, at half the price, and they can be collected by him on the way to the hamam.

We both know that this isn't exactly the right time to be spending money on a car, but we also recognise that all this time apart is having a serious effect on our marriage, and that's our priority right now.

So...as for the birthday tomorrow...how will I celebrate it?  I may just spend a few hours in the hamam and have a massage.  We'll probably have lunch in the hotel restaurant.  The perfect celebration for me would be that the hamam is so full of paying customers, that they can't fit me in!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Catching Up

I seemed to have a flurry of activity with my blog posts last week, which ground to a halt on Wednesday, due mostly to the heat.

It's just too hot to sit in front of the laptop for too long. It's too hot to do anything really.  I know the temperatures aren't as high as they will be over the next couple of months, but I seem less able to cope with the heat these days.  So this post is a bit longer than usual.  I'm catching up while I'm in the mood.

I've spent most of this afternoon and evening catching up on all my favourite blogs, and also trying to sort out my emails.  For a couple of days I've had a problem getting into my mailbox, and then when I do, somehow there aren't anywhere near as many as there usually are.  Also some that I had read but left in my mailbox to answer later, had actually disappeared.  Very strange.

In spite of the heat, on Wednesday evening I had the urge to start moving furniture around again.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I often do this.  I just get restless and bored with things the way they are.  I moved a large armchair from my bedroom into the sitting room...with great difficulty as it became firmly wedged in the doorway and was only finally shifted by an almighty shove, which knocked over a large plant in the sitting room.  I then moved the sofas around...then the armchairs...then moved them again until I felt it was just right.  I then moved a table into the bedroom and placed under the window to use for my laptop.  I've been spending at least half the day in the bedroom as it's the coolest room and it's not particularly comfortable to sprawl on the bed with the laptop.

I always think I'm going to make my back worse by shifting furniture,but surprisingly it always feels better afterwards...must be the exercise!

Poppy has just come into season...she is so regular...six months exactly to the date.  Beki will probably follow suit any day now as she did last time.    Because of the heat I've been sleeping with the bedroom window open wide, and Poppy and Beki have been sleeping on the floor of the bedroom.   Poppy's scent has been attracting the street dogs, and several times during the night, I'm woken up by panting outside the window, which sets Poppy and Beki barking furiously.  Great fun...not!  So for the next couple of weeks, if I need to go out I'm having to shut the dogs in the house, to avoid any unwanted pregnancies.

Yesterday morning I caught an early bus over to see Mr Ayak, spent a couple of hours there, bussed back into Milas to the post office, then back to the village. I'm not enjoying this journey, but Mr Ayak never knows when he can get away so if I don't make the effort I don't see him.

I went off to sleep fairly early last night but was woken up by the phone at 2.00am.  It was Mr Ayak saying that he would be home in 5 minutes.  Apparently his cousin, with the hotel opposite, needed someone to take his sister's car down to Kusadasi.  This particular cousin lives out in Sivas but has a holiday home just outside Kusadasi.  She doesn't relish the long drive, so she leaves her car with her brother and catches the bus.   Mr Ayak suddenly realised that if he offered it would be an opportunity to come home for a few hours as he would have to drive past the turn-off to the village on his way.

The changeover date for customers at the hotel has changed to Saturday, so as most of them would be leaving today, and the next lot arriving late tonight, Mr Ayak could afford to take the day off.  So it was a very pleasant surprise visit.  We sat chatting till about 3.30am...by which time I was wide awake...but Mr A had dropped off to sleep on the sofa.  He woke up at 5.30am and went outside to light a bonfire...to burn all the rubbish in the overflowing bin.....no it still hasn't been emptied...it's at least 6 weeks now and it's disgusting. Mr A has complained bitterly to the Muhtar who continues to come up with excuses.  So it all had to be burned.  While he was doing this I decided I didn't like the armchair in the sitting-room after all so I moved it into the spare bedroom.  Goodness knows why I do this when it's so hot!

Mr A  grabbed another couple of hours sleep, and then we went into Milas, to do a bit of shopping, and had lunch at our favourite place...where they serve the best kofte... in opened flat bread with loads of salad...on a sheet of paper...no plate or cutlery.  It's cheap and delicious.

Mr A dropped me off at the bus station and then continued his journey to Kusadasi....delivered the car...then set off back to Bodrum on the bus.

We have been discussing how we can find a way to spend more time together.  We can't afford to rent something near the hotel, because a) it would be too expensive and b) no-one wants to rent to someone with two dogs.   It takes too long to go back and forth on the bus, and I'm not happy about Mr A doing the journey twice a day on the motorbike.  At the moment we are trying to work out whether we can raise the money for the deposit on a car.  It's the ideal solution.  Mr A can come home every night, and I can also go with him to work as often as I want to, and will then feel a bit more involved in the business.

We have to find a solution somehow...life's just too short to spend so much time apart.