Rain, very nearly November Rain

I wake up this morning and it is raining and has been raining for a while. For the next 6 months Mersin will be puddles and mud.

At least the tap water quality should improve. For the past 3 weeks 3 basil cuttings have been shooting new leaves and growing roots at a merry rate – all in a glass of Mersin tap water! The mineral content of the water is very high – I guess. The tea pot and tap also show evidence of mineral solidification from the local water!


Yesterday, after work, I walked into the city centre. There were lots of people around and all the shops were open even though it was supposed to be a holiday. On the way back from the city centre I went into the local bookshop/newsagent, Kitapsan. The only Turkish Daily News newspaper in stock was Sunday’s. I decided to pass on it. I then walked around to the music section of the shop. There, in the discount bin, was Bridge School Concert cassette for 4.5 million. My music collection just became larger.

On the way back home, I stopped at the local, weekly bazaar, a couple of streets east of my flat to buy some fruit and vegetables. I stocked up on cauliflower, 700,000 TL/kg, pomegranites, 500,000 TL/kg, carrots, 200,000/TL kg and possibly the odd other thing.

The evening

At 6:30pm I arrived at the port to meet 2 Aussies, Kylie and Bronwyn from the ship ‘Poulos’. Orhan, my Turkish friend, also came. Whilst waiting for the girls I chatted to a German, Lizzie. She was was from Chemnitz, Germany, and was shocked when she heard that I had visited the ‘ZV Bunker’ nightclub there! I was there in 1999 as the roadie for Ronnie.

Kylie, Bronwyn, Orhan and I then walked along the coast until Pozcu, talking about Turkey and everything else. I guess I was doing the most talking!

On the way, at the river outlet near the military base, there was a parade of military sailors with a military band. They were followed by young people in uniform, probably scouts. This parade was another event commemorating the Republic’s 80th birthday.

In Pozcu we stopped for a hot drink at the ‘Shangri La’ cafe. My hot chocolate-coffee drink was very tasty. After the cafe, I visited Mado to buy a piece of their awesome raspberry cake, 1,750,000 TL. Mado is famous for its icecream, which originates in Maras. We then walked all the way back to the port where Kylie and Bronwyn made it back on the ship before the 11 pm curfew.

It’s winter time

Yesterday was the start of the blanket using, winter pyjamas and jumper-wearing, blind-lowering, window and door-shutting period. Yes, I believe winter has arrived. I guess the temperature ranges from 12-22 degrees C. I don’t keep my eye on any weather forecast, so I don’t know the temperature exactly.

The weather in Mersin changes so fast, but, really only changes 3 or 4 times a year, when the season changes!

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Turkish Republic

Modern Turkey is a young country, established in 1923.

Today is an official public holiday in Turkey, ‘Republic Day’. There are thousands of Turkish flags flying from houses, lamp posts, boats, buses, businesses and everywhere else. Before work this morning, I walked to the yacht harbour and the Republic Square. On the square they were getting ready for some formalities.

After some discussion this morning, work will finish at 1 pm. In previous years I have worked all day on Republic Day.

In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic. This is one of the many changes he helped bring about. Ataturk, the changes he made and the legend he is in Turkey today is a massive subject, something I may attempt to detail later.

Heaven Fruit

In the last 2 days I have eaten 2 kilograms of persimmons. One name for these fruit in Turkey is ‘cennet meyvesi’ or ‘heaven fruit’. I can vouch for this name – these fruit are simply delicious.

Similar looking to an orange tomato, persimmons are eaten when over ripe with the flesh extremely soft and skin very fragile. Upon first sight of ripe persimmons in Mersin, 2001, I wondered why there was so much rotten fruit!

It’s all happening

The last few days were out of the ordinary.
That sentence brings up the question: What is the ordinary? I hope I don’t discover the ordinary too soon…
Anyway, enough random self analysis.

Back to the future
Sunday morning, at 2 am, the clocks in Turkey, like much of the northern hemisphere, were changed back one hour to 1 am; back to normal time. This is the only time in 2003 for Turkey that time goes backwards whilst continuing forwards…
For certain timezones in Australia and other southern hemisphere countries the time went forward one hour to summer time. Previously, Mersinwas 6+1/2 hours behind Adelaide. Now Mersin is 8+1/2 hours behind.

I was always planning to clear the drains at home. The Sunday morning overflow of the washing machine outlet onto the kitchen bench turned the planning into instant action. After taking apart the sink plumbing a few times I eventually solved the problem, although not entirely satisfactorily. Next time I will think twice about allowing friends with long hair (Alicia*, not mentioning any names 🙂 to wash their hair in the kitchen sink.

*Alicia is a Canadian friend who very recently (just before the blog started) visited me in Mersin for two weeks. She is currently teaching English teachers in Poland.

The Spam
Following a lovely, warm bath, I walked down the six flights of stairs and along the 3 streets from my apartment to work. I came to the office not for work work, but for other work: to complete my tax, consolidate my personal email addresses from 3 accounts into one and send a spam, alerting everyone of my new email address and Joe’s Ramblings blog. As I was about to submit my tax a technical fault stopped me from sending it. Very annoying.

The Meeting
Following the computer stuff I hot-footed it across to the Mersin Tennis Club for a late lunch/marketing/work discussion with every other employee from both the Adana and Mersin branches. The marketing ideas and frank discussions were well supported by the mixed grill, salad and kunefe. I enjoyed meeting everyone outside of the office setting, particularly the Adana workers, Buket and Sebiha.

My Neighbours and their Guests
After the meeting closed I wandered back most of the way home with Asli and Iklim. They caught the bus and I jogged back up the 6 flight of stairs.
My neighbours, Hanifi Amca*, Medine Teze* and Handan Abli* wondered where I had been. They had expected me for dinner. I went up the final set of stairs to the rooftop, where they were entertaining some guests with Gaziantep pistachios and mixed orange-green colour mandarins. The guests were a Kurdish family of Father, Mother, primary-school aged son and toddler daughter. The Father was shot whilst serving as a soldier with the Turkish army seven years ago in the conflict between the army and the PKK. His right arm was limp and he had a large scar running straight from the top left side of his head to the back left. He was talking about going on a holiday with me to Australia where he could get medical treatment. It is very hard not to feel sorry for the plight of him and his family.

*In the Turkish language, Amca (Uncle-Father’s brother), Teze (Aunty-Mother’s sister) and Abli (older sister) are terms of endearment and/or respect used towards people one is not necesarily related with.

The beginning of Ramazan
Monday marked the beginning of Ramazan. Very EARLY Monday.
My previous prediction of the morning drummer proved correct. In my interrupted sleep I heard the banging of the drums 7 TIMES. Not 7 hits, but 7 separate periods of hitting whilst the drummer(s) walked along the nearby streets. In Australia, that drummer would not live long!!!

Tax, Part 79484.49
I made it to work early so I could complete my tax. I needed to call the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to fix this annoying submission problem. The Sydney office, whom I called previously, was not open as it was past 5pm. Before the time change, the office would have been open and answered my call.

I spoke to the technician at the ATO and he instructed me to change the computer language setting to Australian English.

Change the lingo to dinky-di Aussie? I said you got to be jokin’. I told him he’s dreamin’. Bingo! She’ll be right. And it was. The ATO tech was now me mate and a great bloke too. In fact, he’s up there with Boonie! Nahhh. Almost though. I think I’ll change the language back now…

After restarting the computer with the Australian English, my tax return did infact submit successfully.

Straight after I submitted the tax return I did notice one slight mistake, which, if not corrected, would make almost $1000 difference against me. I then anxiously made another phone call to the ATO to find out the remedy. To rectify the situation I now need to snail mail the deputy commissioner Mr. Mark Konza.

I haven’t even mentioned scouring the world for sesame seeds to import into Turkey as part of work. As they say in the classics…It’s all happening

Stranger things have happened…

The condensed version
I have just come from chatting with another Aussie, Kylie, and several other foreigners who are part of a crew of about 250 cruising around the world on a boat selling books. It sounds too good to be true, especially for Mersin, a city it seems nobody knows or visits.

The long version:
Today I was very kindly taken to lunch by my manager, Ahmet. We went to a small fish restaurant in the suburb of Pozcu. In the middle of eating the delicious fried fish and fresh salad, I receive a SMS message from Cigdem, a friend of Gizem whom I had met during a school visit for work, IES-Intervega Education Services, in early 2002. Cigdem wanted me to come to the Port “for a new ship which is library”. I was not sure what she meant.
However, as lunch and work required my attention, I could not go to the ship then and there.

At about 4:30 pm, near the end of work, Cigdem and Gizem turn up at IES. They explain they had visited a ship with lots of English language books and met a guy named Eric who I should meet. I was much more excited about looking at the English books.

They went on their way home and I began walking to the port, slightly the other side of Mersin’s city centre. There, in the distance I see a white ship called ‘Doulos’. I made my way to through the port entry, to the ship’s stairway. There, lo and behold, I was welcomed by Kylie, another Aussie! Now, when a person is one of only two Aussies (the other is the Hilton manager) in a city of 500,000 people I have a right to be excited when I cross another one!

I began chatting to Kylie. It turns out that she is one of over 250 multi-racial inter-denominational Christians that go around the world on the ‘Doulos’ selling books, as an example of tolerance and harmony. She has been on the boat for 2+1/2 years! Kylie gave me a guest pass and shouted me dinner in the dining room. Over dinner I chatted to some other Aussies (from Salisbury, Adelaide!) and a Japanese lady. Afterwards, Kylie showed me around the ship – the engine room, kitchen, bakery, medical room, fire fighting room and, finally, the top-level bookshop. I have never, ever seen so many foreigners in Mersin!

The bookshop features many lifestyle books, Christian-themed books, cookbooks, children’s books and, you guessed it, other books! As Mersin has next to zero English books, I spent a while gazing at all the titles. I ended up with two cookbooks – ‘Quick & Easy’ and ‘One Pot’, both with recipes possible to cook in a single bachelor house containing one saucepan!

‘Doulos’ means ‘servant’ in Greek. Previously, the boat had come from Odessa, Ukraine, via Constanta, Romania, Istanbul and Antalya. The next stop is Izmir.

The ship is in Mersin until the 2nd of November. I plan to visit the ship again and also guide a few of its inhabitants around Mersin, well, at least the city centre.