A Wonderful Bayram (Feast)

On Tuesday the 25th Bengali and Celine, two French friends, drove to Mersin from Aleppo for the end of Ramazan holiday. They left yesterday morning. Bengali and Celine are to blame for both a fantastic time and a lack of blog posts!

The View of Mersin

On Wednesday morning we ate a great Turkish breakfast. In the afternoon, with AIESEC friend Ozge, the 4 of us in B+C’s Taurus drove up a road to the mountains northwest of Mersin. We saw a ridge suggesting of a great view of Mersin. Bengali parked the car near a small cemetery and we walked up a road towards the ridge. The road led past vineyards to an unfinished concrete building with a barking dog. My 3 companions were afraid of the dog and the vote stood at 3-1 in favour of abandoning the walk. I was having none of this and continued onwards. Once it was obvious that the dog was chained, Bengali, Celine and Ozge followed tentatively.

We reached a hillside decorated with trees and moderately dense scrub. I was to scout up the hill to see the view and if the view was worth it, my friends would follow. Half of Mersin, including the Taxim International skyscraper (link) was postcard material but the rest was blocked by the hill continuation.

I scrambled up through the scrub, past the pine trees near the top to an opening. This time the whole of Mersin was an absolute picture in the soft light of the receding afternoon sun. I took several photos.

Bengali, Celine and Ozge had not followed and were unsure where I was. I hope the future gift of ‘the view’ photos will lead to their forgiveness.

Afterwoods, at the invitation of Ozge, we visited her Grandmother’s house for Turkish coffee and Kadayif Dolmasi (recipe in English). Kadayif Dolmasi is the specialty sweet of Erzurum where Ozge’s Grandmother comes from. As usual during Bayram, several other friends and relatives of Ozge’s family came whilst we were there to chat and pay their respects to her Grandmother.

Cappadocia

On Thursday morning Bengali, Celine and I woke up at 5 am to drive to Cappadocia, 250 km to the north for the day. Cappadocia in a day is a major assignment and we were exhausted by the time we arrived back to Mersin at 8:30 pm.

Weather-wise, like Wednesday, it was perfect day. Cappadocia is much colder than Mersin and on the way there there was snow covering the top of many mountains. When we were near Nigde, we even saw snow on the side of the road! The proper winter hasn’t actually started yet.

The places in this amazing region we visited included Derinkuyu’s underground city (10,000,000 TL entry), the castle at Uchisar (2,000,000 entry), Goreme and the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys. This was my third visit to Cappadocia but my first by private vehicle. The flexibility of having one’s own transport greatly opened up the region.

The Neighbours

Twice, B, C and I visited my wonderful neighbours Hanifi, Medine, Handan and Taner (back from studying in Adapazari for Bayram). Both times we played Okey. Okey (pronounced ‘Okay’) is a tile-based rummy game and, from observation, is the second most popular game after Tavla (Backgammon) in Turkey. I am really beginning to like this Okey.

Food

Fitting the French stereotype of good food, Celine is a brilliant cook. The baby snapper and other fish she cooked were exceptional. Bengali’s lamb on the first night was awesome, too. My culinary role largely consisted of buying the supplies beforehand.

Holidays!

Today is the last day of work before 8 days of holidays!

I look forward to relaxing, seeing friends and catching up on emails and blog posts, but most of all, I look forward to welcoming Celine and Bengali when they visit from Aleppo, Syria!

I also look forward to seeing Taner, my neighbour, and some other friends who are returning to their families in Mersin for the end of Ramazan (Ramadan) holiday.

Did you know?

Turkey has the sweetest name for the end of Ramazan feast: ‘Bayram Sekeri’. The direct translation is ‘Festival of Sugar’. A more colloquial meaning is Sweets Festival or Candy Festival. One of the traditions of this feast is for children to kiss the hand of older people (normally relatives or family friends) and then touch their forehead with the older person’s hand. In return, they are given sweets.

Bayram Sekeri feast begins with the ‘iftar’ (fast-breaking meal) after sunset on the last day of Ramazan and continues for 3 further days. This year, the last day of Ramazan is on Monday the 24th and the feast ends on Thursday the 27th.

National Tragedies

The Soccer

Last night Latvia drew 2-2 against Turkey in Istanbul. Following their 1-0 win on Wednesday, Latvia are through to the 2004 European Soccer Championships, knocking Turkey out in the process. This is a shock result as it is the 1st time that Latvia have made it to a major competition and Turkey was 3rd at last year’s World Cup!

The Bombings

However, the tragedy of last night matters nothing compared to Saturday’s and today’s sequences of bombings in Istanbul. Today’s bombings were aimed at the HSBC headquarters in Levent and the British Consulate in Beyoglu. As well as the loss of life and physical damage, these incidents will cause huge economic and social damage to the whole of Turkey. Tourists are less likely to visit and economic confidence will be shaken. Trading on the Istanbul Stock Exchange was suspended today.

I am extremely satisfied with my safety and have no qualms whatsoever about remaining in Turkey. Istanbul and Turkey are very safe and the biggest danger for any foreigner is still the traffic!

Grasshopper Part 3: The Final Chapter

After weeks of hanging around, the grasshopper seems to have disappeared.

Several days back he moved from the yellow clothes peg to my khaki green shorts after I put out a load of washing. However, before I picked in the washing he had left the shorts and was nowhere to be seen.

I have not seen him since and believe he has vanished!

The drama!

Thanks

Many thanks to my Mum, Dad and family and to Marga and Poppop for sending cards. Apparently I have a package coming but I haven’t received it. Hopefully a Turkish postal worker does not find the contents attractive!

Thank you also to Mary, Ronnie, Shannon, Bill, Cigdem, Gizem, work colleagues and others I may have forgotten for the personal, email, or SMS greetings.

Unique thanks to Jane from Sydney and Onur in Germany who found my blog via random searches!

Jane searched on the Lonely Planet Thorntree for ‘Mersin’. She is an Aussie who lived in Karaduvar just east of Mersin with her Turkish boyfriend (now husband). Jane arrived in Mersin on 11 September 2001!

I did not know she was in Mersin then (I was also there at that time). I find out now she is in Sydney!

Onur searched the internet for ‘cennet meyvesi’ and ‘English’ as he wanted to know what ‘cennet meyvesi’ meant in English (persimmon). See it for yourself! He is studying his Masters degree in Germany but comes from Mersin and previously visited in late October!

The web is an amazing place!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my 26th birthday.

As it is still the Muslim holy month of Ramazan I will not worry about holding any parties or whatnot until after the end of Ramazan holiday at the end of November/early December.

This afternoon at iftar (the fast-breaking meal) there will be a surprise cake from Istanbul Pastanesi (the local place around the corner). Most people at work do not know it is my birthday – I really hope it is a surprise.

Ex-Pat Central – well, for Mersin

On Friday night I ventured to Marino and Jeanette’s for dinner. Marino is originally from Italy, Jeanette from Honduras. They lived in many places around the world before coming to Mersin 3 or 4 years ago. Marino is involved in the fruit industry. His specialty is bananas, although in Mersin he deals in citrus. The oldest of their 3 children is about 13 years old and he can speak Italian, Spanish, Turkish and English. Guess who is envious?

Also there for the spaghetti dinner were Natalie from Ukraine and her son. Natalie is also in the fruit industry and works to send fruit back for her Ukrainian company.

With all of us together in the apartment, we definitely were the Ex-pat Central in Mersin this night!

Being with fellow expatriates is great for a change. There are perspectives, experiences and topics of conversation that one cannot share with locals. Mersin is not very accessible for foreigners. The novelty of being a foreigner here is great, sometimes. At other times, more anonymity would be appreciated. With the friendliness of the locals I can’t complain too much though.