Republic Day

Today is the 82nd anniversary of the Turkish Republic. It is a public holiday for government employees and bankers. As usual, on days like this, it seems every second apartment balcony has a Turkish flag hanging from it. I don’t have a flag at home, Turkish or otherwise. If I did have, say, a Port Adelaide flag, and hung it on my balcony, ı wonder what the locals would think.

Huseyin Abi (Update)

I didn’t bother to fast today. If Turkey had a Ramazan culture like Cairo I would have fasted from the start. However, it doesn’t and I don’t believe the faith or want to lose weight enough to continue. The Turkish coffee at work today was great. So were the lahmacun and salad. 😉

Yesterday, besides fasting, I also met Huseyin abi for the first time since he finished running his shop, Can Can Tekel ve Bufe. After selling the lease to the shop, Huseyin went to Ankara and only returned to Mersin recently. He will spend two more years in Mersin before returning to Ankara with his family. At the moment he is looking for work.

A few days beforehand I visited his old shop to buy a bottle of Sevilen Merlot (13,000,000 TL). A month or so previously I opened the Sevilen Cabernet Sauvignon and it was quite a nice drop. I hope the Merlot will be of similar quality. I digress…

The new shop was transformed! Everything was clean, tidy and refreshed. It was though the stock on sale screamed ‘buy me’. Obviously, the new managers had put some effort into reinvigorating the shop, making it more customer-friendly. I guess that happens most times with new and enthusiastic management.

PS: Does anyone have any opinions on the new Joe’s Ramblings’s colours?

The ugly green of before has had it’s day. I hope the website looks refreshed and is screaming ‘read me’. 😉

Stuff It – I’m Fasting Today!

This morning I woke up and decided, ‘stuff it – I’m fasting today!’ I don’t know if it was because of:

*The midnight snacks I ate last night

*The discipline gained by fasting

*The moral support I would give to and gain from the other fasting workers (on Saturday and Monday I was the only worker not fasting)

*The challenge of not eating or drinking anything during fasting hours; or

*All or none of the above

Whatever the reason, today I’m fasting. It is quarter to eight in the morning and my throat is already burning from the lack of water. The first day is always the hardest. After today fasting should be a piece of cake 😉

There are almost 3 weeks of Ramazan (Ramadan) left. The last day of fasting is 13 November. Can I last the remainder of today, let alone the remainder of Ramazan? Let’s see…

UPDATE [6.35 pm]: The sun set more than 20 minutes ago and I have just drunk my first glass of water – I made it!

Making it through the daylight hours without eating or drinking was actually quite easy. I did feel some small pains in my throat, head and eyes, but nothing too bad. During the afternoon the smell of food cooking entered the office a number of times – I wasn’t tempted. On the odd occasion I did reach for where I usually have my glass of water, only this time there was no glass or water.

It was good to have finally followed the fasting tradition for the first time in my fourth Ramazan in Turkey but I do not see much point of it as a non-believer. The discipline was good, however the overwhelming feeling was of inconvenience – fasting getting in the way of food and drink!

I don’t think I will do it tomorrow or the following days, although one never knows.

The New Turkish Lira Designs are Released

See here (in Turkish) for pictures of some of the New Turkish Lira (YTL) coins and notes. Not surprisingly, Ataturk is again featured on the currency. The new lira will be released into circulation on 1 January 2005. I will have a web page solely concerning the new lira at NewLira.com. At the moment there are only domain registrar ads there but this will change soon.

UPDATE: Does anyone have any questions about the New Turkish Lira or suggestions for my NewLira.com website? Please email me with your valued questions or suggestions.

Osmaniye: Karatepe-Aslantas and Hierapolis-Castabala

1 week late, but better than never…

Last weekend I caught the train to Adana. Saturday night was German AIESEC trainee Uta’s last night in Turkey. With Toygun and the other trainees we ate Adana kebab (I ate ciger – liver) at the restaurant near the train station. This was followed by ice cream at Mado. Uta had not eaten ice cream at Mado before – an essential for anybody spending a while in Turkey.

Something else Uta had not eaten was sirdan. Sirdan (pronounced shirdan) is very commonly sold in Adana. Boiled sirdan is a popular late night snack after a few alcoholic beverages. Sirdan is sheep’s penis.

Once we found out Uta had not eaten Sirdan there was some pressure on her to ‘do the right thing’. Uta was kind enough to sample the sirdan. The photos will come later.

After sirdan we found a bar still open had a beer. The bars and pubs are quieter and close earlier during Ramazan as many people don’t drink alcohol at all during the fasting month. Even non-fasting people may choose not to drink alcohol during Ramazan.

By the time Uta got home her early morning flight was only a few hours away.

The next morning Toygun and I woke up and left his family’s house in their old Skoda car. We didn’t get far before Toygun noticed the water temperature gauge higher than normal. In the city we picked up the Manuel, the Colombian trainee. The temperature wouldn’t go down and, cutting the story short, we ended up at a Skoda mechanic’s place in the Adana industrial zone. To get there without overheating the engine, the mechanic continually sped up the Skoda, turned the engine off and coasted. There, he replaced the fan belt and we were off!

Driving east we stopped at Misis for some her famous sikma and ayran. Then it was on to Osmaniye and passing the peanut farms, we turned north to Karatepe-Aslantas Muzesi (Blackhill-Lionstone Museum). The outdoor museum is situated on a hilltop where the Hittite kings used to spend their summers. There, the three of us were guided around the north and south gates. Guides are compulsory to stop people taking antiquities (mainly foreigners) or smoking/littering (largely Turkish people). The hill is surrounded by Lake Ceyhan, a dam flooded in the 1980s.

The north and south gates contain reliefs featuring Hittite writing and carvings. There are also sculptured bulls and sphinx. The themes reminded me of Persepolis, Iran.

On the walk between the gates we saw 2 chameleons on the path edges. The first was a male, the second, a heavily pregnant female. They were only 10 or so metres apart so I guess they were partners. The small, around 10-15 cm animals moved slowly, the male slightly changing colour as we observed. They were the first chameleons I had seen in the wild, if not ever.

A new indoor museum was under preparation, although not open yet.

On the way back to Osmaniye we turned off the road to visit Hierapolis-Castabala (as described in 1905 by Gertrude Bell – see photos 130 onwards), a ruined city surrounding a castle-topped hill. The columns, theatre, churches and bath were in substantial ruin. Further on there was a spring. Several frogs swam in the space immediately below the water outlet.

At first we struggled to find a way up to the top of the castle. The hillsides were steep and there seemed no way in. Eventually, we got there, despite the lack of thirst gained from walking around during the hot day. The way down was an uncontrolled run. All 3 of us were lucky enough not to fall over and see our lives disappear before us.

In Osmaniye we stopped for a drink and some sweets. No place in Osmaniye sold “atom”, a high-energy drink made of pureed fresh fruit, honey and other ingredients. At a small supermarket we settled for a soft drink. This was not Manuel’s first choice, though. He wanted a cold beer. However, small markets in provincial Turkey during Ramazan may not have their beer fridge turned on!

Back at Adana we went our own ways home, I went via the train to Mersin.

Helping Turkish School Children

Aegean Disclosure has a post on Ilkyar, a volunteer group that goes to disadvantaged primary schools in Turkey to hand out toys to the school children.

The posting has a few great photos of the happy children. The final photo is of some children playing soccer in front of an old Armenian church next to a mosque. The photo location is the city of Kars, far eastern Turkey. In December 2002 I played soccer with children in front of the same church. A photo I took is below. Did I play with the same children?

Phoenix by Amos Aricha and Eli Landau

The other night I finished another novel, my second in two weeks. Phoenix, subtitled: His Name Is Phoenix, His Trade Is Death, His Time Is… Now is an international thriller set in mid 1997 and finishing 1 day after I was born.

The book had one main similarity with Star – they were both gripping!

The copy I read was a paperback, falling apart at the seam. Sevil gave it to me, along with some Readers Digests (hey, one reads anything they can get here). Ahmet had read the book 15 years ago and I guess Sevil decided now was time to get rid of the book.

Without giving too many details, Phoenix is centred on a plot to kill a government minister as part of an international political dispute. The story takes place in several different parts of the northern hemisphere. Issues covered by Phoenix include inter-governmental cooperation/non-cooperation, assassin hiring, identity theft, Arab-Israeli relations, antiquity smuggling, security and project planning.

One thing I do ponder is how would such a story work out in the current world. With the book set 27 years ago (and published in 1979) there is no mention of mobile telephones, the Internet, global positioning systems, powerful computer databases, digital images, phone call tracking or iris scans. These and other recent technologies would totally transform the story of Phoenix, making it almost unrecognisable to the 1977 version.

Phoenix, the title character, is the supreme assassin. He has so many talents and abilities it is hard to see him making a mistake. Does he take out the target this time? I highly recommend you to read the book and find out.