Sadly, the Basil has to go

More than two months ago, my neighbour, Hanifi Amca gave my friend Alicia 3 basil cuttings from the pot plant on the apartment block roof. The cuttings were placed in a jar of water and left it in the kitchen. After a while the basil began growing. I replaced the water every few days. The basil continued growing, creating roots and new shoots. The cuttings became rootbound and I changed the basil to a larger jar. Near the beginning of winter I started using the basil leaves in my cooking. As winter started I placed the jar on the floor near the balcony door where the basil would receive the most exposure. The plants continued to thrive – just from the water and the sun. That was until a few weeks ago – the roots became darker, the leaf tips lightened and the growth seemed to stop. The basil is in a sad state now and I will put it out of its misery very soon.

I am amazed the basil lasted so long!

A night at the Restaurant

On Saturday night I was a guest of the owner’s at Ali Baba restaurant. Ali Baba is one of the most popular and famous restaurants in Mersin. This, however, was my first visit. It was an enjoyable night, compliments of Nihat. Dinner was eaten in the upstairs section overlooking the entrance. Later that night, a band was to play, however, the other guests, Mehmet, Ebru and Handan, and I, did not make it that far. Next time.

A Night at the Opera

No, I am not talking about the legendary Queen album or classic Marx Brothers movie.

On Friday night, at the local Mersin culture hall, I attended my first ever night of opera!

4 young (in their 20’s to early 30’s I guess) opera singers took it in turns to belt out their pieces, accompanied by an Azerbaijani (but Mersin-based) pianist. The pianist is my boss’s daughter, Nur’s private piano teacher. There were 2 sets, the second one with a violinist and double-bassist. The final, famous piece was the only instrumental. So famous, I can’t remember it’s name. My main impression was the projection in the singer’s voices – able to compete with the might of the grand piano.

Bam

Unless you have been living on Mars (will Beagle II ever be heard of again?) you should have heard of the tragic earthquake centred on Bam, southeastern Iran. As well as killing 20,000 people and displacing many thousands more, the earthquake destroyed the historic city centre. Bam was going to be one of my stops on my 2004 Iran trip.

Bam is also famous for its delicious dates. I have a 800 gram carton of them in my fridge at the moment. I bought it after Ramazan and it cost 750,000 TL (about AUD 0.70). A previous carton, bought during Ramazan cost 2,000,000. The date is one of the foods (the sweet, kerebic is another) more commonly eaten during Ramazan, hence the higher price. In Adelaide, my family also bought Bam dates from a Middle Eastern shop near the wonderful Central Market. They paid AUD 4.00.

Christmas 2003

I have returned from a wonderful Christmas lunch at Janette and Marino’s. More about lunch later. Here is a rundown of my ‘Christmas experience 2003’:

Christmas Eve

For dinner I cooked stir-fry vegetables and chicken with rice.

The ingredients included: garlic, ginger, carrot, spring onion, cabbage, red cabbage, leek, broccoli, chilli flakes, light green capsicum, spinach, whole peppercorns, 3 eggs in an omelette, chicken breast, roasted peanuts, soy sauce and rice.

I overcooked the meal, per usual, but it still tasted great, although not as great as the 8 Tim Tams!

After a wonderful bath, I opened my present from Annie and David – I received a packet of Tim Tams, some silver tinsel and a Christmas tree wall hanging. The wall hanging and tree are now decorating the entrance ‘hall’ and the Tim Tams are finished – mainly by slurping coffee through the centre in the traditional way – the Tim Tam Slam. Thank you very much Annie and David!

My former flatmate, Umut, rang from Istanbul late last night and we chatted for almost half an hour. Earlier in the month he became engaged to long-term girlfriend, Beysun, in her hometown Usak. Congratulations Umut!

Christmas Day

I woke up around 8 (a sleep-in!). The sun was shining and it looked a beautiful day. As an infidel I was given the day off work. For breakfast something healthy was required to recover from the Tim Tams and prepare for lunch. I ate my final persimmon, 2 mandarins and an apple accompanied by a cup of tea.

I then remembered I had 4 Tim Tams remaining. Boom! In a moment, none were left and the health wish was delayed for a day. Hey, it is Christmas, and one day of overeating in Turkey is far healthier than one month in Australia!

After breakfast I wrote several postcards before getting dressed and heading to work at 11 or so on this great morning. In my boss’s office I called the family via an Internet phone system work was testing. The telephone call was incredibly cheap at about 100,000 TL per minute but the quality was poor. I chatted to Mum, Dad, Liam, Anna, Shannon, Marga and Poppop in the house I grew up in, Price Street, Thevenard. They were finishing the prawns and pudding for dinner after earlier eating roast pork and other goodies. I don’t remember the other foods as thoughts about roast pork took priority…. I was on the phone for 40 minutes – about $4 Aussie worth! Unfortunately, the quality of the phone call is not enough to justify work keeping the Internet phone service.

Lunch

After 12:30 it was time to catch the bus to the Marina apartment complex and grab some wine and cola for Christmas lunch at Marino and Janette’s. At this lunch were another Aussie, Katarina – the Hilton Manager, Central Americans, Ukrainians – Natalie and her son, Italians – including Bruno, the local Catholic priest, and others. It truly was expatriate central. The menu was potato salad with prawns, sliced meats, two types of lamb, roast pumpkin, potato fritters, zucchini, wines, some fantastic sweets from the Hilton and topped off with expresso coffee. Some great discussions about living in Mersin versus Istanbul, philosophy and other topics were aired. Afterwards, Natalie kindly dropped me off back in Camlibel.

Thank you Marino, Janette and all others who prepared the special Christmas meal of 2003.

So, that was Christmas 2003.

Bring on 2004!!!!

Hamdi Came Back to Town

Yesterday afternoon work received a surprise when one of our former clients walked into the office. In 2002 we sent Hamdi to the US on an internship in the hospitality field. His program in Georgia lasted 18 months and he arrived back in Turkey last week. Hamdi, from Gaziantep, now has a couple of subjects left to complete his degree at Mersin University. I chatted with him about his experience in the US and, like most such occasions, returning back to Turkey is just as much a challenge as moving to the US.

After work Hamdi and I played pool and billiards at my local place, 10 minutes walk from work. He used to play billiards a lot during high school. Although the pool games went either way, billiards was one-sided and I became student, learning tricks and techniques from Hamdi the teacher.