Tag Archives: living in Turkey

The sanayi … Haven or hell on earth?

Mention the sanayi to an expat in Fethiye and it’s likely you’ll get one of two reactions.

Either you’ll find a kindred spirit who shares your fascination for the labyrinthine hive comprised mostly of workshops which occupies a half-mile square of the town centre.

The alternative is someone who warns you to enter only at your peril.

I’ll admit I have been both.

No niceties

The first time I ventured into the zone – which roughly translates as the “industrial estate” – it was hugely intimidating. The inhabitants seemed at best dour and, at worst, hostile. There are no receptionists, no niceties; it’s just business in the raw and mostly done on a nod and a handshake.

But, having had so many Turkish friends assure me it’s a place where you usually pay a fraction of what you might expect for anything from metalwork to a tyre repair, I found myself there for the first time on my own buying oil for our truck.

Driving though the chaotic streets was a test in itself. There are no rules – or at least none that are readily apparent. There’s no right of way, you can drive in any direction you please and park wherever you need to be.

Additional obstacles include kids on mopeds and ubiquitous men carrying trays of tea, either of which can appear from behind any one of the various vehicles stripped of major organs, left to await repair.

It’s a bit like one of those special ops training zones where potential threats can appear from any direction at any time – and sometimes all at once.

Diversity in action

But I’ll admit our friends were right; I paid almost a third less for a gallon of engine oil than I’d paid at a roadside garage – and that was enough to tempt me back for other odds and ends.

It meant some Turkish homework in advance; English is a rare commodity and used sparingly. But, the more I explored, the more I discovered about the incredible diversity of the place.

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Just a thorough clean this time – but you can’t really argue with an hour-long valet for less than a fiver …

As an example, if you take a car in for a repair, there’s a good chance it won’t all be done in the same place. Everyone seems to focus on a speciality.

There’s a workshop which does wheel-alignment and balancing; another which focuses on valve grinding; another just for electrics and another for tyres and exhausts.

None seem to understand the concept of a booking; you just turn up, explain what you need, ask a price and – if you’re happy with it – wait your turn. No one seems to mind as there’s always plenty of tea served from silver trays and you can pass the time chatting with the mechanics.

The whole area also seems to be divided into loose zones; all the boat repair shops, marine maintenance workshops and suppliers are all pretty much in the same place. It’s the same with the furniture workshops, the metalworkers, the scooter and motorcycle garages.

On first sight, the sanayi seems a seething mass – an uncoordinated and untidy blot on the townscape, and a huge contrast to Fethiye’s newest and most modern shopping precinct just across the road at Erasta.

But, when you get to know it, there’s an intriguing synergy there – almost as though it’s a living entity in its own right still thriving now on the way business was done generations ago.

True, after just an hour or so in the narrow alleys, a health and safety practitioner would either have a field day or a heart attack. It’s also true that the sanayi seems to be very much a male preserve.

But, over the years, I’ve come to love it – admittedly for its prices but also because, for me, it represents a place where some old-fashioned values still survive.

It’s no utopia – no doubt there are a few bandits around too and it’s probably never going to find its way onto the tourist trails.

But, for me, it’s quintessential Turkey in the buff – all its contradictions and baffling inconsistencies rolled into one – but most definitely worth a try.

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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.

 

 

 

Another Story Of Mice And Men

We didn’t really think that much about the scuffling from behind the sofa to start with. A rare night with decent broadband meant we’d enjoyed about an hour of Strictly and were halfway down a bottle of wine so we were quite relaxed about what we thought was Rubbish Cat’s latest mad outburst of energy. He’s usually pretty laid back, but every now and again he likes to do a wall of death around the living room, either pursuing or being pursued by some imagined feline adversary.

But, if we’d know what the noise was actually all about, it might’ve been a bit different… As Bec tidied the room prior to our retirement for the night, she lifted a bean bag.

“Er… Steve?”

“Mmmm?”

“There’s a bloody great rat over here…”

“What?!”

It turns out the scuffling was actually Rubbish Cat’s entertainment for the evening. He’d brought a rodent friend in to play. Safe to say it didn’t survive, which is probably just as well. The thought of a colony of ratty guests setting up home inside the stuffing of the sofa or in the dark recesses under the sideboard wasn’t a particularly pleasant one. Indeed, it was enough to prompt me to resolve to check the outhouses for evidence of further habitation the next day…

So, after the morning routine of dog walk and breakfast, I donned some gloves and ventured into the dusty, cobwebbed shed which houses the intricate system of switches and pumps which control our water works. It’s been home to a rat before so it seemed a good place to start (https://theparsleysabroad.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/rats-my-secrets-out/).

Opening the door, some immediate scuttling suggested my suspicions were not unfounded and, sure enough, as I switched the light on, a small, sleek body darted into a dim recess where a shelf meets a cupboard. While gingerly prising the cupboard door open, some faint squeaking suggested there was probably more than one culprit too – but I was entirely unprepared for what happened as I lifted a sack of old fertiliser off the shelf.

I can only describe it as an explosion of mice. They showered onto the floor at my feet, immediately scattering in all directions – out towards the door, behind the water pumps, along shelves and through gaps where the tiled roof meets stone wall. I opened another door and this time a full-grown rat plopped onto the floor, looked a bit startled and then made a break for a gap behind a cupboard unit. Another door, another couple of rats…

The sheer numbers involved reminded me a bit of the last installment of The Hobbit when, just as the good guys think they’re winning, it turns out a whole new army of orcs has been laying low behind a hill waiting for the command to strike.

Slightly overwhelmed I retreated to the house…

“Where’s the cat?” I asked Bec.

“Dunno; he was hanging around a few minutes ago but I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Bloody typical. Just when I really need him, he buggers off.”

Forced to fight this battle on my own, I cleared everything I could shift out of the shed, armed myself with the garden hose and let rip with a powerful jet of water, hoping – somewhat like Frodo and his friends in later episodes of Lord of The Rings – a good flooding would drive the enemy from my lands.

So far it seems to have worked. I’ve left the shed door and cupboards open so they don’t make such comfy, dry and safe accommodation for guests with long tails and nibbly teeth. After recounting my battle to Bec, I even earned a vague: “Well done, dear.”

As For Rubbish Cat, I’m not sure how he feels. He does now sometimes sit at the door of the shed peering in – but I’m not sure if the look on his face is part of the atavistic hunting urge or disappointment that I seem to have removed his source of entertainment…

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Rubbish Cat and that look I now get after removing his source of entertainment

A Dog’s Life

We’ve not really posted much for a while, and there’s been a good reason. Something tragic happened in our little family and it’s taken time to come to terms with it.

We didn’t want to blurt it out but neither did we want to ignore it, and writing about other events in our lives just didn’t seem important.

Now, as we enter a new chapter, it feels like the right time to explain.

Our two dogs, Fidget and Fifi, weren’t perfect and it’s fair to say they gave us some challenges. But they were also our ‘Princess Pups’ – they enriched our lives and we loved them dearly.

Fidget

Fidget

fifi

Fifi

When we lost them back in May, it hit us all hard. Small though they were, the hole they left was huge. Without going into too much detail, high winds brought down power cables into puddles left as a result of a nearby pool being drained. On a walk one morning, the pups reached the live puddles first….

Anyone who’s lost a pet knows how traumatic it can be. It didn’t help that we were all apart at the time – Steve and Emma in the UK for Em’s exams, and me at home alone. We all agreed we couldn’t even think about another dog, that we needed time to get used to being at home without ‘the girls’ bouncing around.

Then I saw the photograph on Facebook. ‘Dave’ was a young German Shepherd who was found by holidaymakers. He was in a bad way and only had the use of three legs due to a break in the fourth that had fused as it mended. He’d been living on the streets and, although they were looking after him, they were leaving in a few days. ‘Dave’ needed a home, somewhere he could rest and recuperate.

I felt torn. Part of me didn’t feel ready to take on another dog, but I kept returning to his picture, looking at his face. “Help me,” his eyes seemed to beg.

After a couple of days I mentioned it to Steve and we agreed we would take him in, albeit on a temporary basis. Two days later, we brought him home. He was quiet and unsure of himself, but so gentle and trusting. He didn’t know how to play and was unaccustomed to treats. He didn’t like having eye drops administered – he had an infection – but he didn’t make a fuss while we did it. He’d sit patiently outside the door waiting for food. He accepted a collar and lead, but a short walk up the lane was quite enough to tire him out.

That was three months ago. And now?

The new boy in our lives - darling Dillon.

The new boy in our lives – darling Dillon.

He’s enjoying two walks a day of 5-6km each, and half the time he’s up for more. He loves shoes and regularly steals them off the racks outside the front door – he doesn’t chew them, just hides them in his secret stash. His favourite game is ‘fetch’ with a squeaky rubber ball, though more often he runs off with it to do a victory lap of the garden. He’s started to use his bad leg to walk and play, and can even jump easily – if not gracefully – into the back of our Land Rover. He loves other dogs and people; he’s kind and friendly and has the sweetest temperament, as well as a cheeky, mischievous streak. Essentially, now he’s safe and cared for, his body can use its energy to recover, rather than just survive.

We’ve renamed him, as ‘Dave’ just didn’t seem to fit. He’s now ‘Dillon’ – or Dill. We always said we’d have a dog called Dill – and anyone who remembers The Herb Garden will recall he was Parsley’s best friend.

He’s carved out his own niche in our home and our hearts, so much so that we’ve decided to adopt him for good. We did wonder if we were doing the right thing – not because we don’t love him or aren’t certain we want him, but because, in our little backwater, he’s not popular with the villagers.

His breed, the way he looks, means he’s automatically regarded with fear and suspicion. The locals are convinced he’s a vicious killing machine that will decimate their flocks and probably rip out their children’s throats. Even though he’s always on a lead and barely gives livestock a passing glance as we go by, a couple of steps towards them has people almost leaping into the bushes to escape this fearsome menace.

We do worry, when we walk him, that he’ll sniff out poisoned meat and eat it without us noticing. Somebody could even come to our house when we leave him – though we don’t, very often – and feed it to him through the gate, or even shoot him. It happens, sadly.

But we’ve decided that we’re his best option and we’re delighted he’s going to be a permanent member of the family. The girls are forever in our hearts, but there’s space for him too.

It’s good to have a dog again.

Don’t Call Me Baby

Angry baby

I was sitting on a beach chatting the other day with friends who are not resident in Turkey but who visit regularly. Naturally, the conversation sometimes turns to the challenges we face living abroad and, although I can’t remember now which particular one I was addressing, I know I was elaborating on differences between life in Turkey and the UK.

Suddenly, in a pause, a compact, dark-haired lady sitting nearby interjected abruptly, asking: “So you live here?”

“Yes,” I replied, smiling, expecting the usual questions about what it’s like to reside in permanent sunny splendour, surrounded by beautiful scenery and such lovely people.

“How long for?” she added. And, suddenly, I knew what was coming.

“Just under two years now,” I said – and waited.

“Oh, well, you’re just a baby then…” And BOOOOM!  She was off, relating stories of her own about her 18 years in country and very deliberately putting me in my place as an inexperienced incomer.

I’m not sure why it happens but I think it’s maybe because, as a resident of a country where so many head for their annual holiday in the sun, you sometimes find yourself the subject of some fascination. After all, you are living their dream and they want to know what it’s like. Start talking about it, and you can soon find yourself the centre of attention. Personally, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with but I’ve come to realise that others crave it.

I’m by no means saying all ex-pats do, but some seem to believe their years in Turkey are a badge of honour which ought to be respected and they don’t want to see a relative newbie steal their thunder.

Usually I shrug inwardly and leave them to it. In the early days then yes; sometimes the interest from holidaymakers we’ve met was flattering. But now, if anyone asks about my life here, I try to keep my answers brief. It’s partly because I don’t want to stamp all over people’s dreams with tales of the reality; they don’t want to hear about freezing cold houses in winter, flaky internet, unreliable water and electricity supplies and life with no Cheddar cheese. But I’m also aware I’m still learning every day myself and one of those lessons is that there might be someone with more time under their belt than me lurking somewhere nearby ready to pounce – and sometimes, as on this occasion, I find it irksome.

I’ll happily listen to good advice and I recognise there are plenty of people who have lived here much longer and know far more than I do about the potential pitfalls. But being patronised always puts my teeth on edge and I found being called “just a baby” particularly presumptuous.

The thing is, although I may have only lived in Turkey for a couple of years, I have lived overseas before. My work has also taken me abroad many times, even to a couple of war zones. But this particular lady seemed determined to pigeon-hole me as a romantic fresh from the UK, still wearing rose-tinted glasses with nowhere near the experience necessary even to talk to tourists.

It’s by no means the first time it’s happened. If you live in Turkey, I suspect you’ll find as we have that there is often someone itching to tell you how little you know, how naïve you have been or how much better they have managed or adjusted to life here. The trick is working out which ones are worth listening to.

Of course I don’t have all the answers and probably never will. I’ll freely admit we’ve made some howlers and learned a few things along the way. But isn’t that what life is about? I certainly feel I’ve as much right as anyone to tell a few funny stories to anyone who shows an interest.

But do me a favour. If we meet and I ever describe you as “just a baby”, slap me. Okay?

The Tale of My Pants and “The Hounds From Hell” …

Fidget and Fifi - The

Fidget and Fifi – The “hounds from hell”

Dogs were never part of the master plan. For a start, when we arrived in Turkey just over a year ago, two cats travelled with us and they had made their utter disdain for all things canine abundantly clear.

However, that was before our landlord unexpectedly ambushed our daughter with a puppy while Bec and I were out shopping one day, (https://theparsleysabroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/puppy-love) and before another bundle of blonde fur decided to camp on our doorstep until we lost the will to stop her moving in last Christmas Eve.

We’ve done our best with them since then. They’ve had all their shots, they’ve made their dining requirements clear (only chicken with dog biscuits and gravy will do), they get walked every day and they have bossed the cats out of their favourite sleeping spots which they now inhabit in typical untidy heaps. To be honest, we thought we were doing okay …

Then in April I met the owner of the summer season accommodation and restaurant on the northern boundary of our garden while I was walking them one day.

“Are these your dogs?” he asked with the kind of smile which usually precedes some complimentary comment about how cute they are.

“Yes,” I replied as they gambolled about his legs trying to chew his shoelaces. “Sorry; they’re still just puppies really.”

“Yes, we love your dogs – but you will have to stop them barking,” he said, suddenly fixing me with a deadpan stare.

“I’m sorry – they do get a bit excited when they meet someone new….”

“No. I mean you must stop them barking all the time. I have a business next door to your house and they disturb my guests all the time. I pay my taxes. We are going to have to agree what you do about them.”

To be frank, the sudden accusation that I was the owner of two hounds from hell came so much out of the blue I wasn’t sure what to say next.

“Um … They are dogs and they are going to bark sometimes, like all the other dogs in the village,” I heard myself saying.

“No. Your dogs make all the other dogs in the village bark. Your dogs bark all the time so you have to make them stop. Maybe you come to my house for coffee and we can talk about it more…”

I’ll admit that at that point there had been two or three nights over the past six months when I’d had to get out of bed in the early hours to tap noses and wag a stern finger in front of furry faces after half an hour of yapping at shadows, but suggesting our two were solely responsible for the nightly cacophony across the whole village seemed a bit rich, especially coming from someone only resident in the area for the summer months. Nevertheless, sensing I wasn’t going to win this particular argument, I said something non-committal, made my excuses and decided to consult our neighbour – and one of the village bigwigs – Tommy later. I didn’t need to wait though. Within an hour of me returning home and discussing our dilemma with Bec, the phone rang.

“Stiv … It’s Tommy.”

“Hi Tommy. I was going to call you actually….

“Was it about your dogs?”

“Erm …. Yes. How did you know that?”

“The man near you. He called me. He says your dogs bark all the time. You will have to make them stop or he will call the Jandarma (the local police). If you still don’t stop them, he will throw poison over the fence. You don’t need this so you must stop dogs barking …”

“And how do you suggest I do that? It takes time to train dogs to stop barking. You can’t just switch them off… I’ll do what I can now I know it’s a problem but ours are no worse than half a dozen other dogs up the lane. They all bark as well. And what about the cockerels, the peacocks, the sheep, the cows? This is a village. There’s always a noise somewhere.

“While you have dogs, you will always have trouble,” added Tommy ominously.  “It’s up to you but you have to stop them barking or people in the village can make trouble for you.”

He was proved right – at least to an extent. The same complainant has since left a terse note on our gate after we had tea with friends reasoning, as it wasn’t late, the dogs would be fine on our balcony for an hour or so.  We have also had a visit from the village head man – sent by the same neighbour – who instructed us to stop our dogs barking “all the time”, even though we’ve since had considerable success with reward-based training which has limited outbreaks of barking to no more than a handful, usually provoked by lost tourists riding up to our gates on noisy quad bikes. On another occasion, I found the dogs being deliberately provoked into a frenzy before I could reach them by an old man from another neighbouring property poking a stick though the gate and waggling it about in front of them.

With this in the background and our status as “guests” in Turkey apparently at stake, we have been forced to resort to English habits and have kept the dogs inside at night almost since the summer season began.

I was therefore horrified the other night when, after Bec and I had gone to bed, our daughter returned home from a meal out with the two teenage holidaymakers she has befriended and accidentally released the dogs into the garden at midnight.

Such had been our recent success with training them, any late-night barking has been reduced to a flurry of yaps before the dogs have remembered themselves and resorted to merely wagging tails and excited sniffing of hands and shoes. However, this time, something clearly alarmed them as I heard them run full pelt into the darkness of the orchard, barking hysterically as though our lives were in dire peril.

Without thinking, I was out of bed, down the stairs and in the garden. At that point, my only concern was warnings of poison, the visit from the head man, and possible “trouble” from villagers who, for all I knew, could soon be at our gates with pitchforks and burning torches demanding our immediate expulsion from Kayaköy.

It was only when I hurtled onto the porch and down the short flight of steps into the garden that I wished I’d also considered some additional clothing. Dressed in nothing more than what I can only describe as saggy, unflattering but comfortable pyjama shorts, I was confronted by two teenage girls and their parents, hopping from one foot to another as two excited dogs barked around their ankles.

Presented with four complete strangers turning up at their house in the middle of the night, the dogs were giving it the works, backing off to circle them and then darting in with upturned faces to bark shrilly and excitedly at any sudden movement.

With my distinct lack of decency in mind, I tried to persuade the family to walk briskly towards the house, bringing the dogs into range where I hoped our daughter would be able to intervene and bring them in – but to no avail. It quickly became evident the only way to quell the noise quickly would be to stride masterfully up the drive and assert some authority.

It worked on the dogs. One recognised the tone of my voice and was back inside like a shot. The other retreated into the vegetable garden and rolled over on her back, showing her tummy as an apology and awaiting collection. It only took a few seconds to make the detour from the drive, pick her up in my arms with some stern admonishments and then carry her back to the house.

However, those few seconds were probably more than enough for the bemused family. I left Bec to call an apology and a farewell from the house as I strode back in, contrite dog under one arm, and unflattering bottom cleavage peeping out of the top of my shorts.

To date, I have no idea if our intolerant neighbour was in to hear the barking or if he intends to make another complaint. All I can do is hope karma or fate takes into account the excruciating embarrassment and decides that’s punishment enough…

SP

A Sign Of Embarrassment

Sign

A red-and-white sign at the top of our lane reads “Çıkmaz Sokak” and, as we knew “sokak” translates from Turkish as “street”, it was a natural assumption that adding our house number would give us the first line of our new address.

The rest was a little less obvious. With no postal deliveries made to individual homes in Kayaköy, we sort of got the impression you could more or less make up your own and if we’d gone with “The Lane Behind Cin Bal Restaurant, Follow It Until You Fall Off The End”, nobody would’ve raised an eyebrow. It seemed the only important bits were the name of the village and the district number; as long as they were included, our post would find its way to the local shop for collection.

The first indication that things are not quite as simple as that came when we were going through the residency procedure.  Our ever-helpful neighbour Tommy had volunteered to take our application forms to the village head man for the necessary sign of approval – but he was soon back:

“You have not filled in forms right,” he said. “This is not your address,” he added, pointing to the line faithfully filled in 47 Çıkmaz Sokak.

“Oh but it is … There’s even a new sign saying ‘Çıkmaz Sokak’ at the end of the road,” I said.

“I know. But it is not your address…” insisted Tommy. “You have to go to belediye in Fethiye and get it changed.”

“Eh? If it’s wrong – which I don’t think it is, by the way – can’t I just fill in a new form and start again?”

“No,” said Tommy gloomily. “Head man has seen it now so we must start with getting new address…”

We won’t bother with the details of what happened next. Let’s just say, after two days of form-filling, traipsing from one official building to another and smiling hopefully at stern-faced officials, the whole tortuous residency procedure was complete and the seals were put on our (ultimately successful) applications to live in Turkey. (If you’d like a bit more on that particular episode you could always read an earlier blog, The Day We Ran Headlong Into The Language Barrier).

However, the issue over the wrong address still baffled us – at least until our latest Turkish lesson at the weekend.

We’re on to verbs and teacher Bülent was explaining the verb “çıkmak”, which means “to exit” or “to leave”.

“Ah… So that means our road is the one which leaves the village,” I said somewhat triumphantly.

“No. Not really,” said Bülent. “‘Çıkmaz’ is not the same as `çıkmak’. I know it looks similar but ‘çıkmaz sokak’ means what you call a ‘dead end’ in English. Or maybe ‘no through road’.”

Yep. That’s right. For six months, I’ve been happily telling people we live at “No 47 No Entry”. Suddenly, all those odd or slightly pitying looks made a bit more sense. Tommy and the head man weren’t being obstructive either. By not really explaining why I had to change my application form, they were just trying to protect me from some future embarrassment.

I would like to end by recording my thanks to both – and by continuing to resist a powerful urge to crawl under something and hide.