Friday, July 28, 2006

When in Turkish style

Wow! I can see my last post on Turkey and my tribulations here, really moved you guys - judging by the endless amount of comments. ;-( I'm sorry, but today, it's Turkey again - and a bit of an informative rant. If you ever decide to drive here, you'll have been warned!

*For those of you who don't read French, "DUR" means hard or difficult, which is exactly how the Turks relate to "STOP"

After nearly two months of driving on Turkish roads, I can safely say I understand why this country has one of the highest death rates due to traffic accidents.
I had read a lot about the aggressive driving. Well that’s the understatement of the year! Aggressive, can do, but stupid? Lawless? Suicidal?

Signaling before turning is rare. Most drivers signal only after having slammed on the breaks, if they signal at all – perhaps the Turks have secretly invented telepathy and not yet informed the rest of the world?

Ah, and what are those little mirrors on either side of the car for again?

Honking away seems to be a national tradition; Preferably at a driver who has - oh the sin! - stopped at a red traffic light (although, they will also honk if you are at a standstill when it has turned to orange, and if it's already green, then you're in for an actual symphony of honks!)

Speaking of traffic lights; the meaning of RED does not seem to permeate the local psyche. You soon learn to look, especially when your traffic light has turned to green, before moving ahead. Actually, I'd like to hang on to my car and my life, if you don't mind...and I'm sorry that you do not care for the color red.

Monotonous the highways are not! It is not uncommon to see cars stopped in the middle of a lane (and I do mean the middle) for no apparent reason, or to encounter someone walking across the highway followed by a sheep or two.

Crossroad regulations have been simplified; priority goes to the bully, the bigger, the better.

Oh, and the lampposts you see on the highways? They're for show unless you're in a busy area of town or someone from the EU is around!

The worst of it is, after a while, you begin to feel like a fine moron when:
- you’re the only one to stop and wait for the traffic light to turn green; while every other car is rushing by you protesting loudly
- you’re lolling along the left lane behind an ancient looking vehicle (40 km/h at its peak) patiently flashing your headlights at him to move to the slower lane; when everyone else is just overtaking from the right

When in Rome…Right?
But you know what? Who cares who was right, if you're no longer around...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I'm totally all blogged out.

Why, you ask? Indeed. It's not as if I've joined the Blogathon, blogging for 24 hours straight to raise money for charity. No, nothing like that. I have, however, been trying to do something for the good of many (including myself). Although it will not save lives or feed the hungry, my little contribution just might help newcomers to Izmir feel a little bit less:
to name but a few.
I have set-up a blog for newcomers to this (dare I say it?) God-forsaken city, with the aim of capturing tips, links, best ofs, warnings, recommendations (on just about anything) in one single place.

You'd think, that there would be something like this on the web, (if not at the local Ministry of Tourism. I should chase up that 41 year-old guy with the long pedigree who used to work there). After all, this city boasts a population of 3 MILLION! Not peanuts, say I! Well, nope.
Que dalle!
Nothing that is of any use to anyone who does NOT want to book a hotel, take a ferry to an Island, buy a carpet, or visit Ephesus.

So, guess what? With my growing-by-the-minute-bookmark menu of Blogger Help sites (damn right! about to turn into a total geek!) Yours truly, set herself to it. I created a Blog dedicated to Izmir. And just so you know that I'm not totally exaggerating here, let me tell you that in its five measly days of existence, Izmir Blog has been been spotted by Global Voices Online and ranked fifth in the top Turkish links of the week. (Ok, it's kind of nice, but it still gives you an idea of my situation here!)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The juice without the pips

Unlike Belgrade, which according to Brooke is
not buggy, Izmir has lots of mosquitos. I know 'cause they visit me regularly, wherever I go. In fact I am the perfect anti-mosquito device to take along on holiday.
Hence, it is not surprising, to find mosquito netting for sale in every DIY or larger supermarket around here - they even come in different colors!

In fact, they love their netting so much, they use it for more than to keep the mosquitos from coming in...If you ever have some netting left over, here's a way to put it to good use

As seen in restaurants in this part of the world, where lemon is served with just about every dish.

Need help packing?

For those of you who:

a) do not have a seriously efficient PA (SdM is queen)
b) hate packing as much as I do
c) get stressed/panic at the very idea of packing
d) overpack/underpack
e) forget to empty the garbage before leaving home
f) all of the above

...there is hope and help available! Generate your tailor-made packing list in just a few clicks.

Why didn't anybody think of this before?!

(N.B: if the link doesn't work, copy/paste:
- sorry, can't figure out why it works once in a while)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Like moths to a flame

I visited again to see if there are any English speaking newcomers and also to search for a second hand car.

Checking the forum I was surprised to see a few posts labelled "Women only please". After all, mymerhaba calls itself "A community portal to make you feel at home in Turkey" but whatever...

So I posted a note saying I'd arrived a month ago bla, bla... And, to my complete astonishment, received 16 e-mails all from Turkish men asking my age, sending me links to msn/yahoo so we could chat, wanting to meet for coffee, improve their English, etc.

N.B. to those of you who know me and are already sniggering about my blondness... Please note that I do not have my picture on my profile at mymerhaba nor on my e-mail. I might be blond, but I'm not that blond!

Beyond a doubt, the golden medal goes to a man aged 41 who sent me his whole fxxxxxg pedigree!
His e-mail included scans of:

-his 1989 student card
-university degree diploma
-member's card of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism
-all sorts of certificates (ranging from language schools across the country and abroad, to a set of pictures proving he is a "Defunct member of Cave-searching Association" which made me laugh so much!)
and last but not least: a picture of him and his mates in the army titled "The Office of Chief of Staff Antalya-Turkey".

Well!!! That's putting modern technology (and community portals) to good use, wouldn't you say?

It's a shame 'cause there are probably some well-intentioned people among those who wrote, and maybe the man who kindly offered "to be (my) friend and show (me) anything I want to see" really did it in good faith - but I don't think I'm quite ready to try it just yet!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sweet dreams

We've just had our first dinner guest in our new house in Turkey!

(We actually had our first ever guest here a couple of weeks ago - a sleep-over guest no less, my good friend SdM from Geneva - which was great fun. And we're expecting you back soon with your other half!)

But today, we had our first dinner guest. And we met him here in Turkey (although he is actually French) And it was a really fun evening!

He brought some wonderful wine - been missing that here - and we even found some pork to BBQ - not easy to find in a Muslim country, but yummy. And we talked and drank and ate and talked some more.

So, it's late (past 2 am) and he's just left, and we're going to clean up so as to wake up in a clean kitchen on Sunday morning, but we're really happy! I am really happy!
Perhaps when we write or express certain things the universe does hear us! (Hey, B.B I'm sure you'll agree! ;-) )

Ok, well, time for sweet dreams now... And they will be sweet for we have met someone fun and witty, interesting and perceptive and I am grateful for that today.

I just thought I'd share that.

No man is an island

If you've been wondering where I was...welcome to the club. I've been wondering the same thing myself, except probably for longer... And, I'm not sure I've come up with a satisfactory answer (yet?)

I mean I'm still me right? But I'm just so out of context that I feel much less like myself - for better or for worse.
Not like it's my first time either (moving I mean) - I've done this quite a bit, and practically always to another country, with a new language/culture/school system/way-of-life/ etc.

It's just that it's my first time out of a "system".

Yeah, this time, no school/University/host family/job/ waiting for me, expecting me to pitch up, do my thing, whatever... This time, I'm "the spouse". No one but my little family is expecting the tiniest of squeaks from me.

So I guess, this time more than ever, it's all about me deciding how I fill the days/use my time/brain/hands/body.

It's not as if I weren't busy doing this. I am. Mostly though, I'm filling up with words, views, music, impressions, thoughts, smells, feelings... and not that many people to share them with.
Sure, you can have the most beautiful view in the world, the sweetest meal, the dreamiest music, the most engrossing book, and it's not as good as having half of it, with company you can share it with.

But it's not only about wanting to express things.

I think the most difficult thing, is not being part of something, the lack of input from the world, interaction with family, friends, co-workers, clients, well, anyone, I guess.

Being part of something is not only comforting and gratifying, but part of who we are as social beings. It is key in defining ourselves.

We are all "many-in-one”; a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a friend, a student, a teacher, and different facets of that "me" are revealed and brought forward by different people and/or situations. (For the sake of it, think stress or vacation, a new status or role, a challenge or a loss). We are defined by all of these roles, by the interaction with different people and situations. This too is being part of a "system". They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it's much more than beauty.

We interact with others, and their very being, has an incidence on us, and vice versa.

For me, at the moment, not having much of an interaction with my environment is like playing tennis against a wall. The ball comes back to you the way you hit it - no real input on the other end.

I guess I got to find me a tennis partner or two.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Coming soon: No man is an island

In the mean time, let me know what you think of my little blog revamp!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Thing with Blogs


Completely unrelated to Turkey. I've been reading various blogs & their assorted comments, and it got me thinking.

You might be reading and/or writing a blog.
Ever considered how your perception, indeed your very “absorption” of the content, changes depending on whether you know the writer(s) or not?

Although knowing the blogger may be a fantasy or pipe dream.

Browsing around, I’ve noticed that some regular, often Anonymous, blog readers (who follow posts as if they were episodes of their favorite soap or series) gradually acquire the impression that that they do actually know the blogger(s) or even that they have become somewhat akin, like friends or accomplices.

What could be more natural? After all, as a reader, in most cases, you not only know what your favorite blogger’s zodiac sign is, what country they are located in, but also, where they travel, what food they like to eat, what they read, what is on their minds, what political/ethical ideas they adhere to, about their family situation, etc.

Just like when you’re captivated by a can’t-put-it-down-book, you’ll feel for (at least some of) the characters, applaud their successes, be infuriated by their enemies or frustrated by their misgivings… it’s all part of a magnificent human quality: EMPATHY
(em-pa-thy: Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives. -source :

There are countless types of blogs with a range of purposes. One thing is consistent; there is a real-live person on the other end of each and every one of them. And that person might not know you. That person might not even know you exist, let alone know that you are following their posts and “empathizing” with them.

A systematic blog follower might get so caught up in their reading that they may begin to have expectations –like in a relationship. For instance, they might feel let down when “their” blogger does not write for a while. Or they could express a defensive reaction when another blogger/reader posts a comment –deemed tarnishing or tasteless- in response to “their” blogger’s latest post.
As if, by their faithful reading, they had somehow earned joint-ownership of the blog. All the while hiding behind “Anonymous” on a blog that isn’t theirs.

I read somewhere that entering a person’s blog is like entering their home – ok, so it may be an open barn – but it’s not a forum or chat. I’m all for comments/feed-back/debate, but at least have the balls to put your name down.

I guess, it’s all part of the package. You go public; grow a tough skin. Take the glory and the blows, the passion and the humour, the hurt and the enthusiasm, the aggression and the eagerness…

Reader or blogger, there’s a life after and beyond blogosphere/cyberspace. And there’s a person at the other end of your keyboard who will read your comments. Words can be weapons in any language. …so how about using your empathy both ways?

I’m not naive, an idealist yes, but naive not- We don’t live in an ideal world… but there is a Golden Rule that transcends most cultures/religions:

Christianity: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”
“No one of you is a believer until he loves for his neighbor what he loves for himself”

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Law, all the rest is commentary.”

“Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.”

"This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you”

….and my favorite:
Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria):
“One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”

(from “There is no such thing as “Business” Ethics by John C. Maxwell)

On cyber ethics:

Friday, July 07, 2006

You've got to be kidding!

Yesterday we received our first electricity bill in a little brown envelope. Inside two A5 sheets of paper partially printed (fields corresponding to kw/h/ YTL) and partially handwritten (the amount due).

You've got to be kidding?! 4 times the amount we would have paid in Geneva for a whole quarter in ONE month? And all this from the ONE room we've been using until we gout our furniture. No way!

I run over to the neighbour's who I have briefly met and are German working for NATO.

So sorry to disturb...
They are super welcoming and tell me that whatever questions we may have, we should not hesitate to ask.
Well, that's great, 'cause as it happens... Is this a usual amount for an electricity bill?
They burst out laughing looking at the amount scribbled next to some obscure - to me at least - Turkish words and explain that they had the exact same issue the first month they moved in; the meter does not get turned off in between tenants and the next person/people to move in get to pick up the bill. How nice.

This morning, my German neighbour and I walk over to the Sitesi Manager, Mehmet, to question the amount.
After much-a-do (he pulls out the scrawny register, his ancient looking calculator, some see-through paper documents, and shows us all the numbers that one of his "colleagues" has scribbled down indicating various kw/h per house/per month and giggles a lot). YES! We get him to half the amount of the bill. With the language barrier it is not unlike a victory.

And I'm so not going to let them think that just because we are Expats, and speak no Turkish, and are new to their country, we can be had into forking out cash - it's like, it doesn't grow on our trees any more than it does on yours pal!!!

So what's the next piece of paper?

"Föseptik ödemesi" - YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING?!!! A SEPTIC TANK!
We actually have one?! agh! AGHHH!
It is recommended to empty it twice a month. That is the amount of emptying we're being charged for. Ok, so, um, we didn't know - never suspected, well, that's why the toilet gurgles!!! - and certainly never did anything to empty it!!!

My kind neighbour takes me to the stench hole and opens it up so we can see if it needs attention...
I wish I could convey the smell, really. All part of the experience, this. My German neighbour, looks in first and with tight lips states:
"it iz neeaarly full, you vill need to call thzem"

Needless to say that:
I have no idea who "thzem" is
How to explain in Turkish and on the phone that our septic tank needs tending to
How in the world can we have filled this (just the two of us) in a month if they claim to have emptied it twice since we have been here???

I ask if the tanks are per house or shared. Only our shit in there, apparently -GASP!!
"You need to chzeck if it iz not full, othzervise you vill hav problem" - yes, I gather that. Oh. My. God.

I really want to prove my point here; that we are not fools and will not pay for service that have not been rendered.
But HOW am I going to explain to the Sitesi Manager that we could not POSSIBLY have FILLED the tank (twice!) without actually having to take him there and stand over the stench while he observes the quantity of shit?
Any kw/h for that here?!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yugowife huh?

Ok, so maybe I should explain the name.

When Steph first came to Belgrade* with me -about a month after we got married -he kept joking about the fact that everything was YUGO-something; Yugopetrol, YUGO cars, YugoImport, you name it! It became a joke; we were walking on the Yugopavement to go to the Yugoshop to buy some Yugomilk...And that's how I became Yugowife (that and the fact that local women -mostly family- were spoiling him rotten with their Yugomanners, Yugocooking, Yugohospitality, etc.

The "desperate" bit comes from the fact that I've Limewired the whole of Desperate Housewives Season 2 while waiting for our furniture to arrive -and my downloading has been driving him nuts.

The not-so-desperate is because:
I'm trying to stay positive
I don't want to be desperate
I don't want him to think I am
Someone else has got the name Desperateserbwife and let's face it, it's way more accurate than Yugo-anything!!! But hey, I'm a nostalgic- of the day I got named Yugowife, of course! ;-)

*I was born there.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A month later...

So it's been a month and one day since Balou - my dog - and I arrived in Izmir. A month since I turned 33. Funny that... My first full day as 33 was here, and my last as 32 was traveling away from Geneva. A definite sign of a new beginning, don't you think?

So it's been a month since we arrived, and we've sort of been camping in our new house.
Steph, Balou and I probably had a grand total of 10 household items - excluding our tooth brushes: an IKEA open-up sofa (Steph had bought us when he arrived and on which we slept, God bless IKEA!); 2 camping chairs; a couple of glasses and plates; Balou's food & water bowls and Oh, yes! A tiny TV so he could follow the World Cup.... There has been a lot of echo in the house....And I'm not a big camping fan, but Steph's animated comments (!!=%**"?'^+§§¨!!!) during football have filled the air.

I say "there was" 'cause on Monday evening, after weeks of "your things will arrive tomorrow" (from the customs mind, not even from abroad) where they have been sitting since the 17th- we were finally told that YES! our stuff was going to arrive on Tuesday morning. HURRAH!!!

Since our Turkish vocab is about as extensive as the content of our house, we stuck numbers on the doors of each room, and learnt to say:
bir - one
iki - two (pronouce "ekee")
üç - three (pronouce "eeuch" as in "euhh gross"
dört - four (sort of sounds like "dirt" spoken by an Irishman)
I can't write the rest as my keyboard does not have Turkish characters.

So here we are with all our stuff and although it's still not all unpacked, it feels funny to see it here. And boy, there are loads of boxes!!!!

After observing that Turkish movers/unpackers don't care much about sketches of a crossed knife indicating that a box is not to be opened with a sharp object (they smile and shake their heads and indicate that they did not scrape the wood of your mirror/ cut open your duvet... yes, they smile: "nah, it's nothing, what are you getting upset about?") we decided to to do most of the unpacking ourselves before major damage was done and so we could put things where we wanted them.

A selection of moments:

When unpacking our kitchen stuff, Steph (to whatever item he was unwrapping from the extensive amount of paper):
"Hello, I'm Steph, welcome to Turkey" then looking at me with a "is-this-new?" look (No, no, don't get me wrong, he does cook and actually use the kitchen, it's just that we were living in a pretty small flat and some things were just not really out there to be easily used.)

Opening a kitchen cupboard to discover that:
-it's not really a cupboard for us to use, but the home to ventilation, wires, you name it

-the wood has swollen (I'm tring to be positive here, and am assuming it wasn't built that way to start with) so that the cupboard door will only open a few centimeters making it a complete waste of space
-not all the above-the-counter cupboards are the same depth, so that, oh no, no, no! our plates fit in one cupboard but not in another!!! how impratical is that?

If you are nice and polite with the movers/unpackers, serving them lemonade and coke for their first "pausa":
-they'll soon be taking "pausa's" every 20 minutes

-then go off to a 2 hour lunch having asked you to keep watch of another family's goods (now on your lawn) but that they have unloaded from the truck
- although that family's stuff is going to Istanbul!!!

We're not all done yet, and tomorrow there are more things to unwrap and put away, but it's worth it 'cause now I'm sitting at MY kitchen table - and munching on some chips out of one of MY bowls, and drinking out of one of MY glasses. Call me materialistic but it's already starting to feel like home....