Monthly Archives: August 2014

Avoiding A Cultural Boob

  • WARNING: This blog contains reference to bare boobs. Look away now if you’re likely to be offended.

As one of our major clients is sponsor of the McLaren Formula 1 team, we’re required to watch each Grand Prix and submit a report on the race for the following day.

If I’m honest, as we’re both big fans anyway, it’s hardly a chore; indeed, the relationship has even secured us ringside seats at a couple of car launches – although not at the races themselves (yet).

But, with temperatures on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast forecast to reach 43C last Sunday I have to admit a pool was a vital addition to our usual pre-race preparations.

We duly arrived pool-side in time for a quick dip before it all kicked off in Belgium … and what a race! But, as I lifted my eyes from a screen I’d been glued to for a couple of hours, I was greeted with a sight which shocked me more than the shenanigans between Hamilton and Rosberg.

The lady in her sixties who had introduced herself to us as “Judith” was floating face-up and topless on a lilo, arms spread like a crucifix paddling herself around the pool gently with her hands.

Now I’m no prude. If you have the confidence in your body – or if you just don’t care what other people think – and it’s accepted practice, then why not?

The thing is, this isn’t the south of France. This is Turkey and it’s a Muslim country. There are mosques everywhere, the call to prayer echoes over our village five times a day. The older, more conservative women still wear head scarves and long ankle-length skirts, even in the height of summer. They’re still getting used to seeing girls in T-shirts and jeans.

I have absolutely no idea what Judith’s justification for whipping her top off might have been. After all, I wasn’t about to start an argument with a half-naked lady on an inflatable mattress (although I think I probably went a bit British and tutted quietly).

But I have to say I found her apparent insensitively to the customs and traditions of her host nation surprising – particularly in light of her claim to have visited “lots of times” before.

There are bound to be a few thinking I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. Indeed, it’s something we’ve already seen polarise opinion on social media forums.

But I can’t help wondering how many in the “I’ll do what I want; it’s my holiday” camp would challenge immigrants in Britain for wearing the burqa or accuse young Turkish men of treating British women with no respect.

Yes, parts of Turkey have been “Westernised”, most locals speak English, they love banter with holidaymakers and happily barter with you in the shops and markets; they’re open, friendly and hugely accommodating.

But beneath it all, there is still a culture very different to our own – and that ought to be respected.

SP

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A New Nemesis

Back in the UK, it was the traffic lights at the top of our road…

Despite leaving home a few minutes early or even speeding up a little on my approach in a race to beat them, those damn signals always seemed to switch from green to amber just a second or two before I could claim it was too late to stop. Once again, I’d find myself sitting for an extra three minutes resenting the cars allowed across in front of me, each and every one becoming an extra obstacle between me and my destination…

With hindsight and the perspective of distance, stressing over stuff like that was perhaps symptomatic of the life we’ve tried to leave behind. Here in Turkey, we don’t yet have a car and, even if we did, queues of “traffic” in the village are rare and mostly caused by columns of tourists on quad bikes – or even the occasional camel.

But, despite a slower pace and fewer of the pressures associated with modern Western society, I’ve still found a new Nemesis – and she resides behind the checkout at the local supermarket. For the sake of argument, let’s call her “Irma”…

It’s not that there isn’t a friendly greeting or even a smile. It’s just that, almost as soon as you begin to place your items on the conveyer next to the till, a steely glint enters Irma’s eye.

Like a gunslinger waiting to draw, she seems to wait for the precise moment you’re off-guard or distracted – and then her hands blur as she begins to hurl your groceries into the bagging area.

So far, I’ve been caught out every time; I’ve been trying to open plastic bags in readiness for packing; I’ve been stuck shop-side of Bec in the narrow checkout aisle; I’ve even been waiting politely for the previous shopper to clear their purchases. Without warning, the avalanche begins.

Fingers are at risk as cans cannon down the slide; I’ve even learned to use fruit or bread as a barrier, giving my own frantic hands room to work. But, so far, I’ve never managed to match Irma’s furious pace and I’ve looked up to see her, arms folded, waiting for us to finish clearing the debris so she can move on to her next victim.

It’s going to take time and dedication. I may have to practice at home. But, one day, I’m determined to have all the shopping in the bags, the right money ready and a cocky smile on my face by the time Irma looks up for payment.

By then – at least in Irma’s eyes – maybe I’ll have earned the right to be considered a local …

SP

Riding the Wave – a Mediterranean Adventure

 

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With the Mediterranean surf hurling itself against vertical cliffs towering thousands of feet upwards into an achingly blue sky, it was hard to judge from which direction the next wave would come.

Driven by a brisk south-easterly wind, the surface of the sea was being whipped into white horses as wave crests hurried towards the shoreline. Meeting unrelenting rock, they were repelled with equal force, opposing forces creating peaks and troughs metres high.

Three kayaks bobbed between them, propelled upwards one moment and then dipping, the prow of a tiny craft sometimes spearing into the next wave, shrugging off torrents of blue water before gathering gamely for the next assault.

Blow holes gouged into the cliffs over hundreds of years boomed challenges at interlopers in this marine wilderness, venting spray high into the air. A grey heron watched dispassionately from its rocky perch fifty feet above, launching into distinctive lazy flight as the kayaks passed beneath.

Exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and physically demanding, this was nothing like the experience I expected when I signed up for a three-day 50km paddle from Oludeniz to Patara.

Of course, I knew the sea could be lumpy. Yes, I was aware the only thing propelling me and about 20kg of kit the prescribed distance would be the muscles in my arms, shoulders, back and legs. I was even expecting a basic diet and the occasional attention of wildlife with a propensity to bite or sting.

Nevertheless I was unprepared for the sheer power of the sea and the demands which hours of paddling place on a body more used to sitting behind a keyboard.

If you can imagine going down to the gym, strapping yourself to a rowing machine and using it for  hours in 30C heat while someone else tries to push you off, you might be there or thereabouts.

But, on the other hand, protesting muscles can be easily forgotten when breath-taking scenery almost untouched by human endeavour unravels around each headland – forests of green pine tumbling down crevices to touch the sea while cliffs, tortured and riven with the scars of long-forgotten earthquakes, rear thousands of feet into the sky.

When shimmering flying fish dart from wave to wave, a turtle drifts beneath your hull, or a kingfisher flits along the shoreline, a flash of iridescent blue against the sandy-coloured rocks, suddenly the effort involved in paddling becomes a secondary concern.

Indeed, after a while, I found it becomes almost mechanical, a steady rhythm rather than brute force enough to keep the kayak moving forward – at least until a the maw between two rocks looms, spitting spray and foam, daring you to shoot the gap and ignore the risk of snagging against teeth honed razor sharp by erosion.

I’ll admit I bottled the first few on day one but, once I had more confidence and strength, I followed our expedition leader through, even allowing myself a small “whoop” of achievement after emerging unscathed on the other side.

And, once hips have developed that instinctive balance, you also find it’s easier to flirt with the blow holes, using their spray as an impromptu and refreshing shower, or to explore dark caves out of the sun where it’s easy to pretend no human has ventured for generations.

I thought I’d miss luxuries we take for granted; a chair and a table to eat from, a comfortable bed, beer … But, instead, I discovered once again that other things take their place.

A rocky perch where I could dangle my legs over breaking surf was perhaps the most satisfying place for a simple cup of tea brewed on a Primus stove while curried potatoes eaten while watching moonlight play on the surface of the sea has to be among the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had.

Physical exercise meant sleep wasn’t difficult either while, for me, the splendour of our environment provided a deep sense of peace and contentment.

It’s true that good advice would be to avoid the height of summer if possible; both the heat and the indigenous insect life can be more aggressive in late July and in August.

But I would challenge anyone not to find the scale and majesty of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast an antidote for modern living. Even after a day or two, the sea and the cliffs exude such a sense of longevity that it’s hard not to see our daily struggles as something petty or transient, perhaps helping to reset perspectives or to better understand the things which really ought to be important to us.

If you’d like to experience a similar trip yourself, why not contact Dean at http://www.sevencapes.com/

SPSunset on Paradise Beach

It’s A Funny Old Game …

First there was this

To be honest, here in a quiet village in Turkey, nothing much changed and life went on pretty much the same as it always has but, if you’re used to a more liberal Western life, it probably seemed a harsh or even bizarre statement from a senior politician.

Indeed, almost as soon as the story broke, social media was alive with rampant condemnation from all over Europe.

But, strangely, a lot of the vitriol wasn’t aimed at Minister Bulent himself but at the nation he represents. Almost immediately, a single man’s opinion inspired the Twitterati to suggest the statement epitomised Turkey’s unsuitability to join the EU and there were even calls for a boycott of the nation’s holiday destinations.

But then there was this:

Personally, not for one moment would I support Minister Bulent’s suggestion that women should not laugh openly in public. Indeed, it was a relief to see Turkish women respond for themselves, confirming this can be a nation where people do have a voice and are not afraid to chide the more extreme comments made by their leaders.

But, equally, the arrogance and condescension Minister Bulent’s comments triggered on social media begs the question: What is it about the West which makes some believe they have an inalienable right to use their values as a template to which all must conform?

Rather than using mass communication methods to sneer or demand “punishment” for an entire nation, perhaps Western commentators would have been better supporting Turkish women who have made it clear that they have no intention of hiding their mirth – either at Minister Bulent’s suggestion or in general.

After all, wouldn’t imposing harsh or indiscriminate restrictions on an entire race in an effort to inspire a more liberal culture be somewhat disingenuous?

SP