Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Side effects...

I forgot to mention that my sense of smell is unbelievable.
I'm pretty sure I could compete against my dog if, uh, we could uh, possibly compete... if you see what I mean.
But seriously, se-ri-ous-ly, you cannot imagine all the stuff I can smell and could really do without.
The weird thing is, my brain automatically tries to identify the smell and so when someone is talking to me I'm now wondering what they just ate/drank instead of listening to what they are saying. Agh, the mysterious ways of the brain; I guess instinct gets the priority route, whereas cognitive gets second place.

I'm sure it's great once you get used to it, but right now, I'm NOT enjoying: food shopping, going to the market, pollution, any kind of handy-work, smoke, the 7 day deodorants they sell here, public toilets (even from afar), picking up my dog's poop, newly-packaged-anything, the to-be-sold-and-sacrificed calves and lambs showing up on along the roads and in front of malls in preparation for the Big Bayram.**

What next?! (if you don't know what I'm on about but would like to, read this)

** Big Bayram or Eid-ul-Adha: the Festival of Sacrifice celebrated throughout the Muslim world, "in commemoration of the command given by Allah to Prophet Abraham (may Allah be pleased with him) to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael to Him. The fulfilment [sic] of this noble command of Allah by Abraham signifies his faith in Allah (...) In addition, like the pilgrims in Makkah (Mecca), the Muslims, who can afford to do so, offer domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice. (...) Some of the meat is given to the poor -- often one third. The rest is shared among the family, relatives and friends." (source

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Bad blogger…
I’ve been so caught up in other stuff I have not written… and the longer I didn’t write, the longer I didn’t write… it’s one of those things it just gets worse.

Not that there’s nothing to write about…. Just that it’s maybe not your typical bloggin’ material. Or maybe, in fact, it is.

See, it involves something kind of big and terrifically tiny.

Something very normal, so normal in fact that it happens everywhere and all the time, and now days, age is less and less of an issue. Yet, it’s extraordinary and life changing.

Normal and life changing. Tiny and Huge. Common and Extraordinary. Unique yet as old as humanity itself.

… I’m growing a person. Currently it looks like a bean. Inside my belly. One centimeter big but it’s a revolution.


Well, physically; I have fever, my stomach feels like I’ve turned into Father Christmas and my intake of calories is impressive.

I can also tell you that some of those lady like manners, well, there are times, they just have to go. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do… what can I say? It’s nature. And I wouldn’t know what beer belching is like – not a beer person – but I’m all for making yourself feel better when you feel like you’re going to burst.

The funny thing is, you just know something is up. I felt it happen believe it or not, I don’t care, hubs can testify.
I knew something had happened, the moment it happened.

Then I knew for a few weeks.

Then, I knew as I waited the minute or two for the Clear Blue test to tell.

And I knew as I drove to the doctor’s (ha! The gyno! I do have to tell you about that… maybe in another post).

And then, once you really know, (the urine test, the blood test, the ultra sound and the doctor have told you and you’ve kind of began to understand what is happening), you tend to forget.

So much so, that while you’re in the middle of reading a book, or getting out of a car, you suddenly think: “Why the hell do I feel so damn tired, and like I weigh a ton and a half?” And then it hits you: you’ve got a baby bean inside your belly.

You wake up in the middle of the night, your bladder calling and hungry, thinking: “You've got to be kidding! I had pasta 4 formaggi a few hours ago!”

What can I say, you’re sharing your body, your food intake & your disposable energy. It takes some getting used to. I guess it’s all part of the training.

I’m the impatient type, but maybe the 9-month period is not a minute too long.

Oh, the BB? You decide. Here are a few options:


Big Belly

Baby Bean

Brigitte Bardot (ahem!)

Big Busted (did I mention that hormones do that to you?)

But(t) Babe (that's the food!)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Rainy London Town

Oh, and by the way.... our pre-Christmas trip to London was super!
Lots of decorations everywhere so it felt like Christmas is on its way
Loads of people bustling and walking and shopping and drinking in the open air huddled below gas lamps (beloved invention!)
Ok, London is definitely getting more expensive every year and the £ dwarfing every other currency is clearly not helping...
But everything looks so lovely and yummy and tempting. From the crisp Thomas Pink shirts on Jermyn Street, the scrumptious oeufs bénédicte at Richelieu's, the gorgeous tea tins, cheeses, charcuteries, Foie Gras and assorted Christmas hampers at Fortnum and Masons to the mixed nuts, crisps, cheddars and white chocolate covered strawberries at Marks and Sparks, it was a feast for the eyes and a thoroughly tempting shopping experience. You've got to hand it to them, the English do have wrapping & packaging (both literally and figuratively) down to a tee. I wanted to take all of it back with me.

So enjoyed the oysters and Muscat and the fish and chips too (I recommend Randall & Aubin on 16 Brewer Street, W1, Soho London)
Portobello market in the rain and running for shelter in a pub with a dripping but merry crowd!
The Christmas stalls at Covent Garden and the handy Metro Tesco's everywhere.

It's a funny feeling going back to a city you've lived in. You know your way around; some of your landmark spots are thankfully still there -although they might have changed the branding on their coffee cups and the staff is now Albanian.
While it feels familiar it also feels different; one of your favorite restaurants has given way to a whole new block of glass office buildings their escalators wrapped in sparkling lights, the formerly colorful and spicy Indian is now empty and depressing, the once scruffy mall with the dingy, but well stocked health food store, has turned into a modern complex with smart boutiques and cafés, its previously grey facade is now bright-white and garnished with trees and benches, and the student hall you lived in has been converted into something different and undefined.
Strangely, it is the informal dealers like flower vendors that have kept their habits and venues. High-street shops and cafés have come and gone. Big brands have taken over entire buildings turning them into museum-like showcases that have become weekend excursion venues for the dream-hungry consumers... Among them, many no doubt, are working poor.

Some things, happily, are the same, no matter how many years go by.
The thick air in the tube stations, whooshing upwards and outwards as yet another train moves on; the persistent emanation of rancid and over-used oil, common to most larger cities; the familiar chugging of a Black cab making a turn; the merry "good night luv" as you climb out of your cab or leave a pub...

London town... nearly a decade since I lived there, and I'm thinking it's true; time does go by more quickly as time goes by.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Smoking post

A while back, I subscribed to Google alerts for all things relative to Turkey. At this time of year, on top of all the EU/USA/Turkey/Cyprus articles, I was flooded with links to “how to pluck and stuff a Turkey”, “juicy and tender Turkey”, “allergen free Turkey”....

One link I received in November read: “To quit smoking cold turkey is really a fantasy in the mind of most smokers”. I thought; "here we go again, another one making a business out of the alleged near impossibility of quitting smoking..."

So I followed the link and read a former smoker's account on how he quit smoking. I have to admit, the man is honest and anything but patronizing. I was especially empathic to his recount of how emotionally attached a smoker gets to smoking.

As a non-smoker, smoker and ex-smoker, I’d like to say that:

  • there’s nothing rational about smoking (starting & stopping included). Most smokers and ex-smokers know and knew how bad is for them. Most smokers agree that it is unpleasant and stinky, hate the dependency and the social pressure. Nevertheless, many continue smoking. The pics on cigarette packs in some countries, showing cancerous lungs, rotten teeth and malformed babies, don't make smokers quit, in fact I hear they have become collectable items. Many adolescents swear they hate the fact their parents smoke but light up themselves a couple of years later. Most smoker-parents don't want their children to smoke.
  • smokers really do have an emotional tie to smoking so using rational arguments to convince them to quit is at best going to get you a superficial, short-lived conscious acknowledgement that you are right
  • to quit smoking you have to want to
  • but the emotional implications for most smokers go well beyond will power. Because smoking becomes an extension of your identity; a smoker will smoke when happy and celebrating or when sad and depressed, when concentrated or when taking a break, when bored and waiting, when chilling out or stressed, when alone and with a crowd. Smoking gradually becomes a companion to any circumstance, in fact every circumstance, success or failure, crisis or triumph- because of all this, quitting involves a re-think your self-image (I am a non-smoker vs I am a smoker/ex-smoker constantly craving a cigarette) and of the actual act of smoking (smoking is unnatural/ an effort vs it's cool/natural/part of me). In a nutshell, your belief system needs to change.
  • the following well-meaning statements are anything but helpful and only create unnecessary fear. “Smoking is…”:
    • more addictive than heroine
    • much worse for you than being a bit overweight
    • one of the most difficult addictions/habits to drop
    • like being on anti-depressants so we’re going to give you a Prozac-like prescription to help you quit
Hello?! Do you really think that the perspective of spending your saved-up not smoking money on a new wardrobe because you can’t fit into any of your clothes is motivating? What about the perspective of needing pills to feel normal again? I don’t think so.
Not only are these things so not encouraging they are also not true!

I’m pretty sure that –beyond the implications of rethinking your self-image- a lot of smokers would quit if they could magically just become non-smokers without any of the kickbacks. So telling them about how hard/ impossible/ horrible the stopping will be is really making sure they don’t quit.

How efficient can any undertaking be, when your mind fears the very thought of it? Not to mention the fear of failure.

Not smoking is natural, so your body will welcome it and it will be totally automatic. You don’t become a non-smoker. You return to being one. Hence, you will not loose a part of yourself – you were born this way.

I don’t want to make a case out of it, I know how annoying it was to me when people asked about my quitting. I know ex-smokers who never told anyone they quit and whose offices are smoking zones, because they did not want to become the annoying, pestering ex-smoker. I applaud this although I’m not sure I’d manage it.

All I’m saying is, if you’re a smoker, that’s ok. If you want to quit smoking, or even give yourself a break and say take it up again when you’re healthily retired, you can easily do it. Please don't believe that you'll necessarily go through hell, want to kill everyone around you, put on weight, or become depressed.
It’s easier than you expect and actually really empowering because after having heard how hard it is, you feel like a champ’ when you wing it.

And because it’s natural, you won’t put on weight if you don’t need to, because there is nothing to compensate.

If you want some support, you may want to try Quit Smoking Right Now.

(N.B. I am in no way linked to this person, I don't know him, and I am not benefiting from recommending him. I just found his "program" as easy as pie and inexpensive compared to all the outrageously priced systems out there which charge the equivalent of a year or two of smoking because they're helping you. Also, it's money back guaranteed.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Art Thou Art?

Art is different things to different people.

Some like to be swept off their feet by it, stirred deep within. Others expect art to be provocative and challenging; to comment or rebel thus carrying a socio-political mission. Others still, need it to be beautiful and pleasant to live with, or on the contrary represent nothing but another smart investment.
And of course, you may have all of the above expectations although probably not from the same piece of art.

Art, whatever your expectations of it, is spreading to/ appearing on/ using (all depends on your definition of art) more and more media, from the very mundane and practical to the truly innovative and weird. Theoretically, there's nothing new to this, in fact I'm sure every generation comments on how now-days art is no longer what it used to be and how can a can of beans/ electronic noise/ swirvy incoherent colors or dots/ be art?


No intention of trying to define art. I just wanted to share an interesting concept I have come across, which in its form is commonly accepted to be art (a photograph, sculpture or painting) but is in fact a reproduction of individual human blueprints.

The stuff that not-so-long-ago showed tiny, if key, differences in between what makes a human, human and not a chimp. The stuff that enabled the cloning of Dolly. The stuff that in
the movie Gattaca would allow you to choose your profession or lead you to a pre-defined destiny. The stuff you inherit and that if insurance companies have their way, will cost you loads in coverage that will no longer be prophylactic if they find you carry a cancer gene...the stuff that makes you, specifically, scientifically, you - your DNA.

Now you can have a portrait of your DNA in your living room! Or your partner's. Or have them sitting side-by-side.

It's innovative, it's funky, it's colorful and supposedly what makes you, you. Is it art? or

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bond is back - not!

Just back from Casino Royale, the latest James Bond film - or not.

Funny, how although I am not a huge fan, I've somehow seen just about all of them... James Bond films have become such an institution that they've been on TV again and again over the years.

Anyway, back to Casino Royale; it's based on the first Bond book written by Ian Fleming, the one that never made it into film until now. The story is supposed to take place at the beginning of Bond's career and recounts his first mission as a '00. However, it's set in today's world with Albanian terrorists and money laundering in Montenegro.

Perhaps to avoid too many clashes in chronology, the story is not obviously linked to any key political context other than the bad guys being private bankers to terrorists, so the whole film is very much focused on Bond.
But a Bond with none of the
trademark gadgets from Q, no nuclear or satellite bombs to be disarmed, no over-the-top evil villain nor hallmark flirtations with "Bond girls".
Gone is the
refined, suave if slightly macho 007 we were accustomed to. No more sarcastic familiarity and twinkle in the eyes à la Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. In his place is a blond Bond, portrayed by Daniel Craig, who looks like a boxer (not the dog species naturally) and is a violent, ruthless and cold blooded killer (ok, he has a license).
His usual elegance has been replaced by clothes that look like he's walked out of a laundrette without doing the "press" cycle (except for the scenes in the casino). Dialogues with M (throughout) and a fellow spy (opening sequence) are cold and hard, with none of the usual innuendos.

So in the end, although the scenery of Montenegro, Venice and the Lago di Como is fabulous, the stunts impressive and the plot full of somersaults, it's no longer really a James Bond. It's a 2 hour and twenty minute long thriller, with a ruthless and cold-hearted, steal-eyed and brutal secret agent, who after each confrontation and
his enemies dead, is left bruised and bloody, colder and lonelier than ever.

Bond films might have reached the end of their life cycle, but they were different from all the other action/thriller movies. James Bond was the world's most notorious secret agent, and his lines might have been out-dated and sexist, but they were unmistakeably his. Sure, he would punch and fight, but there was nothing gruesome about it. Now with Casino Royale, we might be at the beginning of Bond movies that are just like any other thriller.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Istanbul was great.
We were there on our own, not playing guide to friends, nor sharing our stay with business related matters. Also, having been a few times now, we've been to all the main tourist must-see locations, so we could just wander as we pleased.

It felt like autumn - it was chilly and windy and leaves were falling- not spring-like as it is in Izmir. Don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the warmer climate, but it somehow feels weird for it to be greener than ever in November. So I enjoyed the wind and the leaves and the Istanbul autumn sun.

It was urban.
What is that supposed to mean? Well, there are lots of different cafés full of people reading weekend editions, sharing brunch and a chat. The streets were busy, young and old, fashionistas and devil-may-care, students and families strolling, window shopping and sitting on benches. I love urban trekking; discovering the contrasting neighborhoods and districts of a city, its shops and cafés, museums and buildings, parks and squares, and people from different walks of life. Istanbul is superb urban trekking territory.

Wherever you turn, there's a feeling of
history mingling with modern chaos. Old crumbling buildings, renovations going on, trendy shops and bars siding with older börek shops or incense vendors, entire shops dedicated to baklava and other honey coated pastries next to up-market deco shops, banks next to knick-knack vendors, mosques and ruins. Buildings from the nineteenth century are by far not the oldest. Some are in superb condition, other are a threat to public safety, especially in a region often visited by earthquakes. The fact that they have not managed to turn it into a homogenous picture perfect newly renovated postcard gives it a rough class in my eyes. It's still a mess, and far from the polished glamour so many cities of historical importance seem to ooze, but it feels real.

There's an air of creativity and vibrant energy. Cafés, jazz clubs, garden lounges, saunas and shops are sprouting where you would never guess to look; behind the doors of a crumbling building and shabby entrance lies a café in the premises once occupied by the Italian Labour Association (Società Operaia Italiana), on terraces, roof tops, in court yards, basements, dead ends, you name it. Istanbul is vibrant with (chaotic) life.

People have gotten their tushes into gear and are being very creative in making the most out of things. Better still, they are often doing it with taste and not in view of making a quick buck on a tourist's need for a toilet-stop. I don't mean to sound patronizing, but it's definitely a welcome change, and I fully appreciated it. There's loads to discover in Istanbul and the fantastic thing is you have to look for it, it's not just being served on a plate according to some proven marketing recipe. In this respect it kind of reminds me of Belgrade; both cities manage to preserve some form of authenticity amidst the trendy urban imports, which makes them all the more enjoyable. Perhaps working on a budget has something to do with it?

more pics of Istanbul

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Potato Pita

In utter despair of the heating ever coming on again, I resolved to try heating myself from within. No, not in a spiritual way, or by doing exercise, but via good old carbs.
I tried J. 's recipe of Bosnian Potato pita.

Although tasty, mine looked nothing like her pics.

If you can do this without the phylo pastry tearing when folding the pita into "loose cinnamon bun shapes", let me know!

Off to Istanbul for a few...

P.S. the heating is now working!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cold and intoxicated

Since I'm on my own - hubs being on a business trip including most of the week-end - (lucky him) I've decided to share my oh so positive thoughts with, well, whoever is reading...

It's 8° degrees INSIDE since the heating is not working.
in my best Turkish, I will try to get it to work. I'm a much happier person with a warm tush. But tonight, I'm practically sitting in the fireplace.

Now, I know 8°C isn't
that cold, but try sitting at 8°C degrees for hours and then tell me that it's not that cold. And yes, had we moved to Russia, it would be much colder, but when I was last there, the heating worked.

Thankfully, at the moment, the electricity is on, which means I have light, water, and TV! Hurrah! My standards are getting lower by the minute.

On top of that, my dog has once again managed to swipe a whole slab of Swiss chocolate, if you please. He is now having a hard time digesting it, resulting in a farting bout that is truly unfathomable. So not only is the air cold, it is also smelly. His toxicity also means I cannot let him be the warm and wonderful foot-heater he can be. Umph.

That'll do for now.
Tomorrow is another day....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

When it gets cold...

It's the time of year when it gets cold and the rain is swishing around on the roads and gathering into enormous grey puddles that splash all over the sidewalks and mingle with the seawater the waves have landed on the shore. But I don't mind, 'cause inside my car, the heating is on and Jamie Cullum's mellow voice sooths the air, my windscreen wipers are on full blast, and I feel warm and safe in a island of mobile warmth and cosiness.

...walking into a warm, heated home, where you can finally remove your shoes, scarf and coat, and your skin swells with pleasure and your muscles relax - it's just an unbeatable feeling, don't you think?

I love being inside under a warm blanket, with my thick, scruffy, pink socks and a cup of tea when it's stormy and pouring with rain.

I love how, no matter the cold and the rain, there is a place you can go, light a fire, turn the heating up and listen to some music. Doesn't take much, but it's enough to make you feel totally protected and isolated from the aggressive cold and wet just meters away. Mmhhh...

Which is why, when it's 15°C inside, the hot water is cold, and the electricity is out - the darn weather wins and you actually feel more exposed than you did minutes ago driving along the wet streets and looking forward to coming home. Doesn't take much but when it's not available, you really miss basic comfort!!!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Back again

We're back in Izmir, after 10 days in Geneva. So how was it? Being home was, well... a bit unlike being home.

Of course, we we're in Geneva and it was great to see friends and family and just, well, be in a place you know, and have not been in for a few months. Familiarity is sometimes so wonderful.

It was appeasing to understand all that was going on around us; it's as if my brain, having muted all the incomprehensible conversations around me for four months, was suddenly fully "on", bordering on overload, like being solicited from all directions because it could grasp the meaning of every word around me - luckily this did not last long! I loved every minute of being able to fluidly and quickly maneuver through minor traffic and get anywhere in less than 20 minutes, appreciated being serviced with a smile and helpful attitude, enjoyed a delicious week-end pizza at our usual week-end hang out, walked about in the sun on the lake side, basked in the beautiful greens of the fields and trees... Yet, it felt different than when we were living there. My perspective had changed. I observed people in the streets, new cafés and shops, and noticed things I hadn't paid attention to before. I had not participated in Geneva's life for four months, but it felt like I had been away for at least a year.

It was not exactly like being home 'cause after a day rushing around seeing friends and family, we didn't have our home to go back to, not our car/scooter, nor our noisy neighbor Jean to mumble about. (I do not miss his yelling against his kids, but still, it was part of our life during our last months in Vandoeuvres). I'm not complaining. It was wonderful to stay with A. and her hospitality and kindness were absolutely first-rate. Wonderful to have dinner with the girls, and I enjoyed every lunch, coffee, dinner, and walk... but it was weird being home and yet feeling that home was no longer truly there.

Izmir from the plane

I guess, this is actually a good thing; while we don't yet feel 100% at home here, arriving at the airport and driving back, certainly felt less foreign. I even had a few people to call this time and some who called me. It was nice to pick up Balou in great shape and find our home with all our things in it, spotlessly clean, as Hamide, our wonder-cleaning lady had come by. I actually enjoyed doing a big food shop and filling our fridge knowing that there are a few added ingredients and spices I brought back with me, which will make for enjoyable more-like-home meals. My mind filled with fresh Geneva sights and impressions and finding Izmir practically as green as Geneva, now that the sun is less scorching hot, was a rewarding reminder that home is where you make it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quarterly random bits

Before heading back to Geneva for 10 days, and since we’ve been in Turkey for four months and a bit, I thought I’d share a quarterly review on random bits and mysteries that remain to be resolved:

  1. The average Turk is generally rather laid back in terms of timeliness (yavaş, yavaş), quite gentle and soft-spoken… Except behind the wheel. Watch out! Bye bye Dr. Jekyll, Welcome Mr. Hyde! Honk-Hoooonk! The relaxed Turk turns into speeding lunatic who has to overtake the car ahead even if he'll be turning off the main road 20 meters later anyway. Huh? It's like: "Hurry up so I can go home, lay back and relax!" Still a mystery to me!
  2. Turkey is a control freak’s paradise; you’ll be able to let your controlling instincts run wild and no one will get offended when you remind them to come/go finish the job/ - in fact it’s the only way to get things done here.
  3. When speaking with locals or ordering in a restaurant, remember Greek salad is not Greek, nor is Moussaka. And Baklava is certainly neither Greek (μπακλαβάς) Serbian (баклава), Romanian (baclava), nor Lebanese (بقلاوة).
  4. Do the sales people realize that helping and encouraging you to buy from the shop is part of their job?
  5. Luckily, the ones that are helpful really go out of their way to give you a hand!
  6. Any given supermarket or market has at least 300 different white cheeses which are totally indistinguishable from the outside (all square blocks in saran wrap)
  7. Petrol is the most expensive on earth!
  8. When stopped by the police, or by an annoying promotion-person just say “turkçe konuşmiyorum” (I don’t speak Turkish) and you’ll instantly get an apologetic smile and a wave to move on.
  9. Advocating the use anti-perspirant /deodorant that promises 7 day efficiency is a very near sighted strategy... (euh, gross!)
  10. Ataturk is never a subject to joke about
More, with a fresh perspective, when I return!
I'm so happy to be going home!!!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Turkish tax strategy

Turkey, like many countries was having a hard time getting their tax money in - and they came up with a pretty innovative strategy in my opinion.

Because they didn't have the trusted manpower to check the country's businesses' bookkeeping, they implemented a pull strategy by encouraging the consumer to pressure the business.

In a restaurant or shop, it was common practice not to receive the bill, to keep income off the books. So the government decided to refund a percentage of the VAT to individuals at the end of each year -provided they could show proof of expense- for purchased clothes, food, medical goods and school supplies among other things.

By asking for the bill and claiming a refund on part of the VAT she had paid on goods during the year, a friend of mine in Izmir was refunded about 400 YTL (about 200 Euros) per year. Not bad. I can think of a few things I'd rather do with that then spending it on VAT. And it's all in the interest of the country.

The system worked well, and so gradually the state has reduced the percentage of VAT they refund - perhaps a bit quickly in my opinion, for it will take a while for the tax evasion process to "un-become" the norm.

Now-days, although you still get asked if you want the bill or not (and get offered a discount in shops if you don't want it) a larger proportion of the population has gotten into the habit of automatically pressuring the business into good bookkeeping simply by asking for the bill.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Greatness is...

I'm all for cities marketing their historical or cultural attributes.

Although a commercial pole, Izmir, for example, attracts tourists on the way to the ancient city of Ephesus (about ninety minutes drive away). Izmir itself, allegedly one of the oldest cities on the Med, looks anything but ancient with its concrete bay and mushrooming hill side houses, since it was reconstructed after the "great" fire of 1922. But greatness (or would that be grandness ?) is often associated with historical heritage... So how could the Grand Efes Hotel, in its perfect early 70's style (currently being revamped) be anything less than at least 100 years old ?
(Click on pic to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A brave new world

Waking up this morning, I still wasn't sure whether what I was about to do would make me feel like a cowardly drop-out, or a braver, more in-touch-with-myself-person; the kind that can be a good friend to herself.

A month ago today, I started Turkish classes at state language school here in Izmir with a group of foreigners. From the start, I found the schedule too intense (4 hours a day, 5 days a week plus 2 hours a day getting there and back) and the general rhythm not to my taste. The fact that everyone but me was actually living with a Turkish boyfriend, husband, father, mother, aunt, or had a doctorate in Turkish lit. didn't really help.

The first week was exhausting as they always are. After that, most afternoons I felt so tired and heavy with indigested novelties that by the time I got home, the last thing I felt like doing was getting my head around more Turkish and doing my homework. Some days, I actually took afternoon naps I was so tired! Why is this so hard? Has my brain reached it's maximum capacity of foreign languages? Frustration at constantly trying to keep up was brimming and sapping ever more energy. Why am I doing this? Yes, I want to learn the language, but can I keep a minimum of a life too?
I hung in there.

At the end of September, I took the oral and the 4 hour (!!!) written exam, which completed level 1 and enabled me to continue on to level 2. I passed it with a pretty good score and felt almost disappointed.

On Monday, level 2 started. The size of the class had doubled but was one person short for them to split the class in two. I found myself even more frustrated due to the lack of time for each of us to practice speaking and ask individual questions. With an even larger number of people whose knowledge of Turkish way surpassed mine, keeping up was more than a headache. I felt totally miserable at the perspective of going on with the "up at 6 to enjoy 4 hours of running after comprehension before trying to figure it out at home" routine.

Waking up this morning I thought: "I've got to make learning Turkish a bit more pleasurable and find a format that's more in tune with my current level and pace or I'm going to end up hating the language".
The little devil on my shoulder piped up immediately: "You drop out. How do you expect to learn if you give it up after one month?"
I felt queasy. I'm really shite at letting go/ giving up/ leaving. Like a dog with his bone. Somehow a part of me still adheres to "you go on no matter what". Even if it's stupid, fruitless, bad for me, whatever. Up bringing, has a strong hold no matter what you learn later in life. Plus I'm stubborn.

I went to school but not to class. I waited for the break at the end of the first hour and spotted the teacher.
Couldn't you find the class? (Ouch!)
Actually, I was waiting for you. Can we talk?
Off we go to an empty class room. I explain that I'm feeling really frustrated while constantly striving to keep up with people who practice Turkish all day long, that he's a great teacher but that the format is not working for me, that I learn better when I'm happy and comfortable, and does he by any chance give private lessons?
Hurrah! He does. And he will. And he lives not far from us, so there's a no-more 2-hour-traffic-jams bonus.

Here's to making things easier on yourself 'cause you can, and 'cause it's OK.

Thanks to my honey for knowing the devil on my shoulder and helping me make the good guys win.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Learning Turkish

Turkish is an agglutinating language, which means it makes the bits in your brain stick together and become something akin to Russian kasha.

This is how it works:
Where English and other languages, need seven or so words to say something like "I will not come to the Cinema", Turkish only needs two ("sinemaya gelmiyorum").

This is because Turkish agglutinates all the bits to the verb or the noun or both:
In the example above, the negative (m) is stuck onto the root of the verb (gel) and before the subject (here first person singular indicated by "um"). The preposition "to" is the "ya" at the end of the word cinema.

This all sounds pretty simple until you start trying to identify words as someone is speaking. You might get one or two words, but they could mean a number of things -or potentially the exact opposite- depending on what is stuck on to them.

To add to the fun, the basic word order is "the woman the book read" which again sounds simple enough, cause the book can't read the woman, but wait until the sentence you are trying to understand involves two people and try to figure out who is doing what to whom!

Unexpected use of prepositions with verbs (for instance "I like *from* my friend", which literally comes out as "friend mine from very like I") combined with no distinction in between masculine and feminine (no gender whatsoever) completes the scrambling of neurones.

On the positive side, most of the endings rhyme with the word you're adding them on to and there are only six letters in the Turkish alphabet which do not exist in the English one (of which three vowels, but Turkish has no Q, W, X) so at least I don't have to learn another alphabet!

Fun, huh?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Power cuts & flooding - final episode

... at least I hope this is the end of it, although by the looks of our parquet...

Anyone interested in setting up a gym for ants?
I'm pretty sure we could incorporate some kind of roller coaster and actually make it into a fun fair...In fact, if things keep up, we could extend the invitation to larger beasts like squirrels and stuff

Vive la vie en Turquie!

Monday, September 18, 2006

After the power cuts...

't was an eventful weekend for us!

To celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary (Jeez! already!!!!) we decided to be brave, romantic and get cozy all at once, by lighting a fire in our fireplace for the first time!
To be honest, we were weary doing this, seeing as our neighbors told us horror stories of their house- so cautious we were. However - no hiccups whatsoever, no back smoke, nothing fell into the fire from the chimney, ... nope it all went fine.

Until 1h30am when a whooshing sound woke me up - my husband is always making fun of my ultra sensitive amygdala & limbic system, but haha! Am I glad it's alive and well 'cause hubs and dog were snoring away while I rose out of bed... to place my feet in centimeters of water!
No, it wasn't the fire brigade putting out our flaming home!

The boiler had burst!
Hot water was splashing out of a waving tube, bouncing off the door of the laundry room, onto the floor, swimming along the corridor, all the way to our room.
As it turns out - we were lucky. Had it happened during the day time, the whole house would have been flooded, with no one around to notice. (We estimated that the water had been running for a maximum of twenty minutes).

All is well that ends well. We had the boiler repaired this morning and were hot-water-showered by mid-day. Plus, we both took the day off to get this done. Sweet.

This evening, when we lit the fireplace again, more confidently this time around, we were stunned by another whooshing sound... bats! In our living room, swerving around the air in rapid circles.
Maybe this fireplace thing ain't such a good idea after all...

Happy anniversary to us!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Low birth rate resolved the easy way

Learning from Turkey, how can Europe resolve low birth rate?

Often we look for complicated schemes, government incentives, sponsored baby-care... I say, try power cuts! Simple, efficient, low cost.

One in the morning, when people are about to make coffee, shower, dry their hair... -and all they want to do is get back into bed - you just give them that extra push.
One in the evening, but not too late, just when they would normally be washing the dishes, watching TV, or browsing the web, so they're tired, but not exhausted!

After all, don't stats and medical journals show there are baby booms 9 months after power cuts? I say it's worth a try!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Turkish textile gets popular support

Switzerland, being one of the least patriotic countries I've ever lived in, always surprised me with the number of flags hung on national holidays...But the Turks here, are totally in another league.

See, in Switzerland, flags are hung by the authorities on bridges and official buildings. The only flags I've ever seen on people's private windows are "PEACE" flags (except maybe during the World Cup where all sorts come out).

Turks however, are fully on board when it comes to national holidays! Have you ever seen so many flags?!

Today, September 9th, Izmir celebrates the 1922 "evacuation" of Greeks from Smyrna (Izmir) who
administered the city and region for three years following the Treaty of Sèvres (1919). Four days later, on September 13th, a four day fire all but destroyed the city, paving the way to it's current concrete waterfront.

So today, Izmir is screaming with flags to celebrate both Ataturk - pictured on a lot of the flags - and liberation from the Greeks....and they're not forgetting their growing textile industry.
Even their brides are patriotic!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Neon signs aren't always enough!

Have you ever felt that what you are trying to express is as obvious as a HUGE green neon sign, flashing over your head, but that the person you are trying to get the message to, is just not getting it?

It's just so frustrating!

Here's the blurb:

About three weeks ago, the nice Frenchman's wife and kids arrived. Remember, he's nice and smart and fun, and works with my husband. She, on the other hand is really starting to get under my skin.

's by no means nasty, or wicked, no. She's just pushy, self-centered, totally narcissistic (in a half naïve, half smug, child-like way) and will not take a polite, diplomatic, no-thank-you kind of answer to anything. (And I'm not the world's greatest diplomat, take my word for it! I tend to be rather direct!)

A couple of days after they arrive, via her husband, Hubs and I get asked over for a drink. Nice. Except, we practically have to get ourselves a drink (remember it was 40°C!!!) and end up sitting in the garden looking out for their kids in the pool while She's checking her newly installed Internet connection, checking if Skype works, occasionaly asking us for technical support. He was unfortunately sorting out some other issue with the techie who'd just shown up.
Not the greatest "we're all yabanci (foreigners), let's bond and help each other" moment... but, hey, it can happen.

A few days later, She contacted me by e-mail and wrote: "(She would) gladly accept my offer to help" - nicely put, don't you think? Considering I hadn't offered anything yet! Anyway, this was her way of NOT asking me to take her to town. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and obliged.

needed to get to a furniture shop in town, but didn't quite know where it was.
My sis-in-law was visiting and we figured we could do a few things in town ourselves, so we drove by hers and She followed in her car with her kids, to learn the way into town.

We all park at the closest parking and meet-up at the elevators. We catch the lift up, walk to the street where her shop is, and I sigh:

Ok, well, see you around...

"Actually, I just want to quickly have the kids pictures taken" She throws over her shoulder as She pushes into a photographer's shop with her kids. (Um, am I missing something? What does that have to do with us?) The door shuts and I catch her motioning for us to wait at the café on the corner. Fine. Whatever. We could use a bite.

Twenty minutes later, sis-in-law and I have had some drinks and a bite, and things are dandy. Here She comes, sprouting their pics and all smiles.

Off we go.... Oh, no! Off She goes; a million questions & comments on everything and anything.
Where does sis-in-law work? What does she do? Must be difficult working with orphans? How come we bought a car instead of importing one? How much did we pay? And She orders lunch for herself and the kids...

OMG, the lunch!

spent the whole meal yelling at her ten year old son to shut it, competing with her two-year-old for attention, and making sure my sis-in-law (or anyone else in the restaurant charmed by the little one’s cuteness) would repeatedly take her daughter to the toilet so the never-ending flow spurting through her lips could go on uninterrupted. (Forgive me, am I being catty? I'm not usually, She's just toxic, what can I say, some people just get under your skin! And remember I’m writing this with hindsight and perspective!)

I get the bill and we finally manage to get away and out of sight.

No news for a while thankfully, and I believe my sis-in-law when she says I made my point.

Sweet illusion!

e-mails, She has been trying to get in touch re: our Turkish lessons (yes, She has enrolled via the company in the same beginner's course) but I seem to be out a lot (for the record, I have not stooped to not answering or cutting her calls, so I don't think so lady...) and so, could I call her when it suits me? (How about never?)

I send her the links and all the enrollment details for the language classes as well as their contact details -everything I had, Scout's honor. I even put her in contact with the International Women's Group here, hoping for relief in numbers.

Monday was the first day of my Turkish classes, and for a week now, I've been dreading the call. (See, this type of person only contacts you when you can be of use. And I knew, the princess She is, had probably not found her way to the school nor registered).

Bingo! Last Saturday, an e-mail. About the classes...could I call her? Uh-uh. No way.

I send her the address and list enrollment docs, -again - and tell her I'm off to Istanbul for a few days. (Simultaneously, I find out from the school that there are too many beginner students for one class! Yay! There'll be more than one! And, no She has not registered - they ask me about her since the company has given her name but She has not confirmed attendance yet).

A day after we're back from Istanbul, She calls. Damn!

"Can we go together? It would be fun. The ride, the talk, starting classes together?" Just writing about it is making my skin crawl!

I try to weave my way out; "I have errands to run in town after class, and it would be more convenient to be independent. I wouldn't want to keep you in town, with your kids coming home from their first day in school...." She insists, and insists.... "Look, can we talk later?" Agh!

The day prior to class, She sends a text - we could meet at hers in the morning.

Fine, I'll go to hers. She can follow me the first day, so She can find her way there. Then, I'll somehow get into a different class, and cut the ropes. How hard can it be?!

I show up at hers with my car Monday morning bright and early explaining that She can follow me to the school, but that due to errands, I need my car. She pouts, but agrees. Off we go.
We're stuck in the traffic and I can see her through my windshield reaching for her mobile phone... a fraction of a minute later mine starts ringing- Nooooooo! I turn the music up and sing. I can't believe the woman. She's totally fusional!

We arrive at the parking in front of the school, and as luck would have it - there's a wedding thing on, and the parking is full... (Groan) The valet tells me (and then her) that there's an Otopark further on... I turn the car around, there's another one just behind us, that'll do fine, thank-you! Plus we're not exactly early as it is.

Alarmed, She looks out of her window, and screams: "I can't turn my 4x4 here, can you please wait for me?" - and drives off to the other fxxx otopark.

I park, and wait. And wait. I call her up. She's looking for a parking space. Am I waiting for her? Yes, I am. (How did this happen? She's the one who needs, and I'm the one constantly waiting?!)

Fifteen minutes later, She breezily walks up the street as if She were sight seeing, strolling at the speed of a tortoise. I breathe deeply and attempt a smile. We cut through a toyshop so as not to have to walk around the block and She starts telling me about the toys She bought her kids here. Aghhhh. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.

We finally get to class. 30 minutes late. Packed. There are no seats left. The teacher goes out to gets some more chairs and I manage to sit at the other end of the room from She.
After 20 minutes we break and another teacher shows up with the first one. He splits the class right down the middle, explaining there are too many of us.
I walk down the hall with my half of the room to another class - No! Wait! "I'd like to go in zee ozer class, wiz my frend?" And within a second She's sitting right beside me.

I am totally despairing.

is totally eating up my oxygen.

Class starts, and after being given a few basic words and phrase/question structures, we are asked to work in pairs criss-crossing so that everyone gets to ask and answer every question.
The teacher is super encouraging with all of us, even those of us who have the worst accents or swallow the suffixes on occasion - but She will not have it.

After a mere hour of Turkish classes, She is cutting off the teacher and correcting everyone with "no it's not that, it's this" and drowning out every other person's voice.

The teacher diplomatically changes tactic. He calls out a specific name pointing at a word on his board so we can form a question, getting someone else to answer it. She asks and answers every single one of them aloud!!!

Class finishes and I'm down the stairs- She catches up with me asking if I can wait for her while She registers so I can show her where the close-by otopark is. (I know, I seem really dumb and a total masochist by now, but She's wearing me out!) Ok, I tell her, I'll wait in a café outside.

I order a drink, open my book, and withdraw from her and the morning for a few minutes.

She returns and immediately asks where I'm going for my errands and won't I have lunch? But the few minutes of escape in my book have re-energized me!

I manage to pay and make my way out, helped by the noise of traffic and people as we walk to where my car is parked. I hand in my ticket and drown her out, concentrated on paying my parking and getting away from her.

"Will you have errands to run tomorrow? If not could we drive in together...?"

I wave her goodbye in the noise of the street, knowing that tomorrow I will drive myself to class, without stopping by her place, with my music on full blast and my mobile phone deep in my bag.

Looks like for me, Turkish class is going to be more than about learning a new language...

Update: As planned, on Tuesday I leave her to find her own way to class. Driving there, my phone rings, but I don't reply. When I enter the classroom she pouts and greets me through tight lips. Just in case, after class, I run, but she manages to catch up with me by the parking... I stick to my guns, and miraculously escape lunch! Yay! On Wednesday, after two days of sitting next to her, I managed to move to another seat, and by Thursday she is no longer talking to me. Yay! Yay! Yay!
Nasty, huh? but sometimes you have to go to extremes to make a point!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Too much sun!

Just back from a few days in lively Istanbul.
On Tuesday, just as we were coming out of the Blue Mosque, it literally started pouring. It rained so hard, that even under cover you got soaked from the drops bouncing off the asphalt.
I never thought I'd say this, but I really enjoyed the clouds and the rain!
I hadn't realized how much I missed "continental weather" until it dawned on me, these were the first clouds and rain drops I'd seen in 3 months. I guess, you just don't appreciate the sun and warmth when it's perpetually 38°C ! And the gray sky really set off the gold on the top of the Blue Mosque and the peachy orange of Aya Sofia.

Luckily for us, the rain only lasted an hour. The next day, the sky was cleared from dust and pollution and the air was crisp and clear.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where the hell is Matt?

If you haven't yet seen this, do have a look - it's really worth it!

Beautiful music, beautiful world, great idea, a good laugh and watching it just made me feel really happy!

Enjoy the dancing!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Good news of the week

Some of these are minor, itty-bitty, mini, tiny, little things, but they felt like Christmas had come early in the context we're in, so indulge me.

1. I managed to order Nespresso coffee capsules for our Nespresso machine! Hurrah! No need to load up on the stuff when we go back to GVA. (I know Sev, you would be happy to send it over, and thank-you so much, but if we can find it here it's even better) Not only is the Nespresso website bilingual, it actually took my order, and the coffee was delivered 3 days later. That's impressive! Oh, and I loooove my morning espresso!
2. I have finally found some fresh ginger! (made even better by the fact that I had totally given up on ever finding some and bought the powdered stuff), cherry tomatoes and lime!
3. The fence around our garden is finally Balou-proof! (only after having being patched up at least 5 times...) So now, I can go out without worrying that he's going to have a dog party with stray non-vaccinated-full-of-parasites-dogs, or be run-over by a speeding local driver. Pheew!

4. I am finally enrolled for Turkish language classes! Only took two months...

5. I have my very own new car! After having driven six different rentals (due to local "bureaucracy"), of extremely varying quality and condition - you don't want to know!- this is absolument fan-tas-tique!

6. Tomorrow, complicated bureaucratic procedures for me to obtain my very own Turkish permit kick off. This means that there is hope that the spouse that I am, will be able to get a few things done around here without needing my hubs signature and presence! Now that's a life saver!

7. And the very best news of all (drum roll here...) my sis-in-law is visiting for two whole weeks! We thus proclaim her second bravest person; Sev was first, visiting even before our furniture had arrived! Now that's brave!