Tag Archives: Life as an ex-pat

A Fowl Tale with a Happy Ending

“Sad Girl’s in trouble,” observed Steve as I came into the kitchen one morning.

I joined him at the window to see our neighbour, Hüseyin, walking down the road towards one of the nearby restaurants.

Trotting beside him, at the end of a length of string, was a chunky, honey-coloured dog – a bit like a Labrador but with more fur and shorter legs. Sad Girl, as we’d christened her, had appeared a few weeks earlier – a victim of the most recent round-up and redistribution of street animals by the local belediye, or council. (Don’t get me started. The general treatment of cats and dogs here is one of the few things I actively dislike about life in Turkey.)

She had a mournful face – hence the name – and seemed a bit bewildered, but settled quickly. With food forthcoming from two restaurants at one end of the road and a family from Istanbul near the other, she certainly wasn’t going hungry – as her bulky frame showed. She had places to shelter from the rain, enjoyed meeting people who walked by, and – although clearly not a young dog – had a playful nature and plenty of energy. The only thing lacking was love and attention, so she was welcomed into our garden whenever she cared to come. She never stayed long – lots of pats, a tummy rub and a bit of fuss, and she was off again.

It seemed, though, that things might be about to change.

“She was in the field over the road, digging,” explained Steve. “Hüseyin and his wife came along and watched for a bit, then Hüseyin went over and pulled a dead chicken out of the hole in the ground.”

Oh dear. But there was more…

“Then he walked to a patch of dug-up ground on the other side of the tree and pulled out another one. I think he’s taking her down to the restaurants because he thinks one of them has adopted her.”

An hour later, I looked out of the window to see Sad Girl trotting back up the road towards us. The string hung loosely from her neck….and in her mouth she carried another dead chicken.

It might sound amusing, but we were worried for her. In a village like ours, livestock is a precious commodity. If our dog killed a neighbour’s chicken, we’d be expected to pay them 80 lira (around £14.50 at time of writing) in recompense. We know a couple who opened the door one night to be confronted by a Jandarma officer and an angry farmer demanding 1,200 lira (around £218) for a goat that went missing after one of their dogs chased his flock.

We didn’t see Sad Girl the next day, or for the few days after that. It seemed she’d been killing chickens on a regular basis – not for food, just for the fun of it – and people had had enough.

We feared she’d been quietly got rid of and that would be the end of it. But then, driving along the road one evening, Steve spotted her – on a lead, accompanying a member of the Istanbul family as she fed a local pod of street cats, a daily task.

Sad Girl, it seems, has found a permanent home. She’s one of the luckier street animals…and the village chickens can breathe a cluck of relief.

 

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“It’s ok, we’re safe to walk the streets again. Tell the rest of the girls.”

 

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Eyes Wide Shut

Isn’t it funny how quickly we take things for granted?

One of the many beautiful views we enjoy on a regular basis.

I know how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world, but even in the short three years we’ve been here, I don’t always appreciate it on a daily basis.

Last night, driving out of the village to meet a friend for dinner – a rare occurrence; people think our lives are one big holiday but they really aren’t – I was struck afresh by the sheer beauty of my surroundings. Nothing in particular – simply that the sky was so blue and the woods still so green; Babadağ’s imposing presence loomed in front of us while the sun cast a soft, glowing light over the hills as it began its evening descent.

Due to the fierce summer heat, we’re currently walking Dill the Dog at the extreme ends of the day – around 6.30am and 8pm – and I realised I don’t always make the most of it. With the local goat population seemingly on hiatus during the hottest weeks, you feel like you’re the only person in the world as you walk in the woods sometimes – especially on the early shift. (I’m not a morning person and when it’s my turn I mutter and groan when that alarm goes off – but it’s a special time of day once you’re up and about.)

One of the storks – I disturbed it drinking from a pond.

We’ve been fortunate in recent weeks to observe porcupine scuttling across the path, a badger that’s set up home in the dried-out river bed, wild boar snuffling among the trees, a pair of eagles, a young fox, the village storks who have come back to nest for another season…. Sitting quietly and watching them go about their lives is a privilege.

Yet I know on occasion, when I’ve returned home and Steve’s asked the question we always put to each other – “Did you see anything?” – I’ve responded along the lines of: “Only the eagles.” Only? Since when did seeing a pair of eagles start out of a nearby tree and soar overhead become so commonplace? Ridiculous to think that I can get more excited about seeing a tortoise – as commonplace here as hedgehogs are in the UK – bimbling along the track ahead of me.

So, my summer resolution is to remind myself to take more notice of my surroundings. To look at and appreciate the things I see every day which I had already stopped noticing. I’m fortunate enough to live a life many would love – I should relish it every single moment.

Looking down across Fethiye from one of the mountain tracks.

The sun rising through trees in the local forest.

 

 

 

“Do You Want To Phone A Friend …?”

Remember Chris Tarrant? I do … and let me explain why.

Genial and quick-witted, there was a time when it seemed Chris was everywhere. Radio shows, games, books and of course perhaps his most famous role as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And that’s why he sometimes pops into my mind when I try to speak Turkish.

Why? Well, in the show, if you didn’t know the answer to any of the questions Chris fired at you, you had three “lifelines”. You could ask the audience, you could go 50/50 and eliminate some of the wrong ones or you could phone a friend. And, if I’m honest, I’ve done the equivalent of all three while trying to make myself understood in Turkish.

As an example, let’s use our attempt to buy some tempered glass for the wood-burner after the last sheet detonated rather dramatically in the middle of a family evening in front of the telly the other night.

We looked up “glass” “fire” and “wood-burner” and set off for the shop in Fethiye and, on arrival at  the workshop, found three guys in conversation, the middle one stopping to raise an inquiring eyebrow. We’ve done more than a year of Turkish lessons now and I had been reasonably confident we’d be able to say something like: “Hi, we need two sheets of tempered glass for a wood-burner.” Sadly, despite the preparation, nothing came out.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t marshal the words into a sentence quickly enough and, as I became increasingly aware of the long pause, I panicked. I pointed at some glass, I said the Turkish word for “fire” and hoped that was enough.

But no. The shopkeeper replied with some quick-fire Turkish and all I could do was look at him helplessly – and that’s usually where Chris Tarrant steps in.

“Do you want to use one of your lifelines?” he asked in my head, when actually, what I wanted to do was just make myself coherent. “Do you want to ask the audience?”

I looked hopefully at Bec. Nope. No help coming from there. The other two guys in the shop had wandered off and there was no chance of catching their eye either.

“Do you want to use your 50/50?” Chris was asking. I fumbled with my phone hoping the translation app was still open so I could show the shopkeeper the words we looked up earlier in the hope he could make sense of what we’re after from that. It wasn’t.

“Do you want to phone a friend?” inquired my imaginary Chris, although in the real world, it was actually Bec with her own mobile in her hand.

“Hmm?” I asked dazedly.

“Do you want me to call Bayram? He’ll be able to explain what we want …”

“Oh. Right. Yes. I suppose so.”

And minutes later there was a telephone conversation going on between the shopkeeper and our bilingual friend while I stood ashamed that, yet again, I couldn’t string a sentence together in Turkish – or at least not one that I was confident would make any sense.

After over a year of trying to learn a new language, I’m okay in the markets, bars and restaurants and I can even manage rudimentary car maintenance phrases after a series of issues with our Land Rover. But it’s when you enter a new scenario or when you’re dealing with officialdom that linguistic shortcomings become far more evident – and it can underline just how far you still have to go.

We’re fortunate to have a teacher with endless patience and a sense of humour too. Indeed, Bülent seems to find the stories I tell about how I’ve struggled this week quite amusing. But, then we’ll settle down to run through where I went wrong.

Besides, as Bülent points out, if we added up all the time we’ve spent in lessons together, it only comes to just over 100 hours, which is about three weeks if we worked on a nine-to-five basis. Is it really realistic to expect to be able to speak a new language fluently in such a short time? Probably not.

It’s true the effort you make to speak even rudimentary Turkish is appreciated by locals, and reciprocated in their smiles and even in the price you pay in the lokantas and at some of the market stalls. It is definitely worth the effort.

Nevertheless, I suspect it’s going to be a while before I’m free of Chris Tarrant.

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