Turkey’s new coinage

An article on the new coins to be produced when Turkey takes 6 zeroes off its currency on 1 January 2005. Some of the article is confusing but the most interesting quote for me is:

State Minister for Economy Ali Babacan will decide which pictures and designs will be on the new currency. Ataturk’s picture, which is prevalent on the money in circulation today, will not be used on the new kurus coins.

Selam Ali!

Last night I went to Mado Cafe to meet a friend, Helin. Whilst at the cafe I met my boss’s daughters and their Grandparents, visiting from Izmit. I also saw Hakan and Mutlu, 2 university friends of Ali, my first Turkish flatmate back in 2001. Ali went to Atlanta a few years ago on an internship and is currently still there. Unknown to me, Hakan and Mutlu were also university friends of Helin’s. It turns out that Helin was also at Ali, Hakan and Mutlu’s university graduation almost 3 years ago! On the spur of the moment I decide to sms Ali. We had not communicated for months. A few minutes later, Ali telephones me. Although the line was very bad (he ended up calling 3 times) I could recognise that Ali had developed a strong American accent. Was wonderful to speak with him again, even if was only intermitenttly and accompanied by interference.

Before leaving Mado, I spotted Ertan abi, my neighbour from my second Mersin residence, Denizhan 2, and a rector at the university. Ertan abi is good friends with Umut, my second flatmate, who has recently commenced his military service in Adana.

Mado: the place not recommended for anonymity

ANZAC Day

Over in my other blog I have written an article on the Turkish side of ANZAC Day and the importance of the Gallipoli battles to the Turkish, in particular, to the rise of Ataturk. On a related note, in CNN’s ANZAC Day coverage they showed the poser John Howard (Australia’s less than esteemed leader) making a photo opportunity with Australian troops in Iraq. There was also a news story with Stan Grant on the ANZAC Day commemorations in Thailand where the World War 2 POW’s (prisoners of war) suffered terribly building the railway for the Japanese. Following the news was Stan Grant again, presenting a documentary about the troubles aboriginals have in Australia, particularly focusing on the riots in Redfern (an inner-Sydney suburb).

Cyprus: the Result

As expected and detailed below, the Turkish Cypriots voted for (65%) the reunification plan and Greek Cypriots against (76%). A big chance to move forward was missed. At least the Turkish Cypriots will now receive further international recognition and aid. With the international isolation of the past 30 years, the Northern Cyprus economy has suffered considerably and is much poorer than the South. Hopefully, this will start to change. The Economist article is here.

The top Nightspot in Mersin

Last night Ali and Magda came from Adana. I met them at Guzeloglu Tantuni, our usual restaurant. The free Children’s Day Haluk Levent concert organised by the recently re-elected council was cancelled due to rain. The previous few days were overcast and wet. On the way back to my flat to watch the top 80 videos of the 80s on NTV we played a trick on Huseyin abi, a local shopkeeper friend. Ali and Magda went to his shop and pretended they wanted something by speaking in Polish or Spanish

or English and Huseyin abi did not have a clue. He took his glasses off to listen better to Magda! A minute late I burst in and Huseyin abi and I laughed ourselves stupid. I had the tears going I laughed that much!

After some reminiscing in front of the television watching 1980’s music videos from Blondie, Pat Benatar, Boy George and more we made a snap decision to walk to The Hilton Disco. Friday night at the Hilton Disco is probably the most popular regular night in Mersin. This was my first visit in almost 1+1/2 years! It was great to have a couple of hours on the dance floor although the music (house? trance?) was quite monotonous by the end. Sometimes, when I felt my enthusiasm wane on the dancefloor I remembered that I was in a ‘dangerous‘ country and this laugh inspired me on. After 2 am it was time to walk home and get some sleep before work, later this morning.

The Cypriots are Voting for (or against) Reunification Today

After many, many debates and meetings, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will vote today on a reunification plan. I really hope the locals can put the terrible past behind them and unite Cyprus again. Somehow, I don’t see this happening for a while. There are too many strong feelings. Having written this, it is very good that talks have reached this far. Today it is expected the Turkish Cypriots will vote for the plan and the Greek Cypriots against.

The ferries from Turkey to Northern (Turkish) Cyprus leave all year round from Mersin and from Tasucu, near Silifke, 80 km west. In 2002 I travelled to Northern Cyprus with Umut and Beysun. Then, as now, the border between the two sides is closed to most people. I really hope the next time I go there will be no border and everyone is free to visit the entire island. I don’t know when this will happen. The situation will be interesting after 1 May when the South (Greek Cyprus) joins the European Union.

A brief history of the island of Cyprus and the machinations between the Greek and Turkish sides is on the BBC website.

National Children’s Day and a visit to the local Orphanage

The Orphanage

Yesterday, Sevil and I visited the local orphanage in the centre of Mersin. There, about 100 or so 5 to 12 year old children were in a hall. They were preparing to celebrate both National Children’s and Sovereignty Day and birthdays for all the children born in April. Sevil went to the orphanage as part of a Rotary Club charity event to give sweets to the orphans.

The children were very rowdy, active and generally happy. They were dressed in either school uniforms or what looked like donated clothing. Some of the clothing was slightly ill-fitting and a few of the boys’ tops were designed for females. Nothing too noticeable, though.

I spoke to several of them and they were intrigued to speak to a foreigner. The most common questions requested my age, name and ‘Hangi takim?’ or ‘Which team?’. This last question, of course, was referring to which football (soccer) team I supported in Turkey. I say ‘Fenerbahce’ mainly because this is the team followed by my previous Turkish flatmates, Ali and Umut. I don’t passionately support Fenerbahce and I actually hope the lesser clubs in Turkey win instead of the big 3 Istanbul sides, Fenerbahce, Galatasary and Besiktas. When talking about ages, one of the children said his Mother was 30 years old. I don’t know how he knew this he was an orphan. Perhaps his Mother could not support him and gave him up. Some older school students were also visiting the orphanage at the same time. Two of them actually recognised me from when I visited their schools in early 2002.

A male orphan was the MC and introduced the day’s program. Several adults gave speeches largely ignored by the children. 4 of the female orphans then danced to a Tarkan (Turkey’s biggest popstar) song. Following this, 5 or 6 male and female orphans in traditional costume then performed Turkish folk dances accompanied by a drummer and flute player. More performances were to follow but Sevil and I had to return to work.

I have some photos of the dancing and hope to post them in the next few days.

National Sovereignty and Children’s Day

Today, the 23rd of April is ‘National Sovereignty and Children’s Day’. According to NTV “…established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to honour both the children of Turkey and the founding of the national parliament of the new Turkish nation.”

Many businesses and apartments displayed Turkish flags (like they do for all holidays) and schools, government offices, banks and some businesses were closed. My work remained open as it has in previous years. This morning a student parade lead by a marching band walked past work. Amongst the school students were scouts. It reminded me of my days long ago when I took part in ANZAC Day and other marches as a cub, scout or venturer. ANZAC Day is in fact on in 2 days time and soon I will write about it from the Turkish perspective in my other blog.