Joe’s Ramblings: Happy 1st Birthday!

I wrote my first blog post 19 October, 2003, 1 year ago today. Since then Joe’s Ramblings has received approximately 250 posts containing more than 50,000 words.

What first put the thought of blogging (I didn’t know it was called blogging then) in my mind was seeing a visiting American AIESECer in Adelaide write her blog in April/May 2003 (sorry, I can’t remember her name). I was slightly jealous of the ease with which she communicated on the ‘net. Tom’s An Irish Experience also inspired my start in the blogging world. Prior to 2003 I am certain I had surfed hundreds of blogs all over the ‘net but I obviously wasn’t ready to take extra step and start my own.

I had a website at Taheny.com for more than a year before I started Joe’s Ramblings. Unlike the blog, the website was painful and time-consuming to change.

A short while after Alicia visited in October 2003 I took the plunge and signed up at Blogger. Now life without a blog would seem very strange. I have put hundreds of hours into this blog. Sometimes I feel like I waste too much time on it and I should be sleeping, eating, socialising or doing something else instead.

The blog was established with four main purposes:

*to keep family and friends informed: much better than spam emails

*to be informative and entertaining enough for casual visitiors to return

*to provide an insight into both Turkey and Mersin

*to record my experiences, an online diary as such

I hope these purposes have been met.

Although one year is not very long in life, it is in blogging. The number of blogs and their importance is growing every day. A year or two back I predicted in 10 years time everyone will have a website. I did not know the websites would take the form of a blog.

I still have many more plans and improvements for the blog in mind. I want to change the formatting and colour, add a left column, improve the links and focus the content more. I may even experiment with advertising, not to make money (I don’t expect to), but to learn and experience the process of website advertising so I understand it better. I would also like to categorise all my posts into 5 or 6 categories, for example: Travels; Mersin; Turkey; Food; Personal: Internet. Some other blog programmes like Movable Type have this feature but Blogger does not.

I want to write a brief AIESEC trainees coming to live in Adana and Mersin, a FAQ about the blog, and other articles. Does anyone have any suggestions for content, formatting or features?

Blogging will only become more and more important in the future: politically, socially, economically and technologically. I plan to ride the crest of this blogging wave into the future.

Ramazan is here!

Friday the 15th brought the first day of Ramazan (Ramadan), the most holy of Muslim months. Believe it or not, but this is my fourth Ramazan in Turkey!

As an infidel foreigner, Ramazan doesn’t bring many changes, particularly since I love my food too much to participate in the dawn to dusk fasting (unlike Tom in Egypt). About half of the office people keep fasting for the whole month. The others may only fast on the odd day.

Talking about food, popular foods during Ramazan include dates (hurma), soup, particularly lentil soup (mercimek corbasi) and Ramazan pide. Ramazan pide is usually a large, round and reasonably flat bread only produced in the afternoon to meet the demands of the fast-breaking (iftar) meal. If one buys Ramazan pide in the morning they are buying yesterday’s bread.

Another Ramazan food is ‘kerebic’, a flour-based sweet made with pistachios in the centre and smothered in a whipped egg white cream. This sweet is largely only eaten in the Mersin-Antakya area. I have only tried it once or twice before – will have to eat it again before Ramazan is over.

Other traditions of Ramazan I have noticed:

*Ramazan is a time of charity. People give money to local charities and basic food stuffs to people, particularly the poor. The supermarkets have special packages for Ramazan containing cooking oil, salt, rice, lentils, spaghetti, tomato paste, etcetera. Sevil gave all the employees (myself included) such a box today.

*As the daily Ramazan fast begins before dawn, before practising the fast normally wake up very early. To help people wake up, drummers walk the streets banging their drums. This morning at around (I guess) 4 am I heard the drummer(s) go past 4 times!!!

This extremely archaic tradition should die a sudden death. To compound the pain, at some stage during Ramazan the drummers visit each apartment asking money for their job. People now have alarms to wake themselves up at 4 am IF they want to. According to Ahmet, the discontent over the drumming has grown over the last few years and there are thoughts banning the practise. Hooray!

Happy Ramazan!

The First Blogger Blog

The first Blogger blog began in August 1999. It contains over 4,500 posts, 236,000 words and his profile has been viewed more than 30,000 times!

Evan Williams was a co-founder of Pyra Labs, the creators of Blogger. Evan recently quit Google (who took over Pyra Labs in 2003), no doubt, a very wealthy person. You can see his Blogger profile, profile number 1, here.

In contrast, my Blogger profile is number 2,131,128.

Turkish city of the future: Mersin

In August, Foreign Direct Investment Magazine, part of the Financial Times Business stable, believed Mersin was the Turkish city of the future:

The most popular housing regions for foreign executives are on the Mediterranean coast and villas in the nearby Toros mountains. The Tarsus American High School founded in 1888 prepares bilingual students for universities in Turkey and overseas. Manual workers are paid an average of €4.36 per hour, while secretaries and middle managers make just €4740 and €7272 per year respectively. The city’s administrators have an international outlook and are actively seeking foreign investors.



On a point of difference, I have extreme doubts about manual workers being paid an average of €4.36 per hour here. Maybe €1.36 per hour!

Hopefully, the article has foreign investment executives looking at Mersin as a place to invest.

Turk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars)

On Saturday afternoon a thunderous noise alerted work to the ‘Turk Yildizlari’ or ‘Turkish Stars’, a Turkish airforce jet stunt team. Although They were performing for the assembled audience at Cumhuriyet Meydani (Republic Square), away from work, our office could still see the jets fly past. In ones, twos and the odd multiple formation the Turkish Stars put on a thrilling display flying at low altitude just above the city apartment blocks.

See here for a picture and news article (in Turkish) and here for the official page’s photo gallery.

Athletics coming to Mersin

According to an article from TrackProfile.com in runnersweb.com:

The 2005 Winter Throwing Cup will be held in the southern Turkish cith of Mersin.

Whatever it is (all the athletic throwing competitions in a throw-off? Dwarf throwing? Something to do with with running?), it will be different for Mersin and definitely worth going to.

UPDATE [2005/01/31]: See the official 2005 Winter Throwing Cup website at Mersin2005.org.

The end of Huseyin abi’s shop

In August I wrote an article about my friend, Huseyin abi (photo), and his shop, Can Can Tekel ve Bufe. Huseyin abi was having financial difficulties. Basically, the profit from the shop did not cover his family’s expenses. I helped him change the shop and provide some inspiration in the hope sales would get better.

For the past year I have spent many evenings with Huseyin abi at his shop, chatting in Turkish with hand signals and enjoying each other’s company. Now, I will spend no more evenings there with him.

Last month Huseyin showed me the sign on the shop window saying the shop lease contract was for sale. One evening last week I walked past Can Can Tekel ve Bufe and Huseyin was not there. In place of Huseyin was a family. The next day I bought some chewing gum and the young man (well, younger than me) at the counter confirmed that Huseyin had finished. This was reconfirmed when I spoke to Yasar from Istanbul Pastanesi, a cake shop across the street. Huseyin had gone to Ankara where his family comes from. I think Huseyin and his family will be based in Mersin until his son will finish the school year and/or the house rental contract is up. From previous discussions, he is likely to look for a driving job as his next earner. Whatever he does I’m sure he will enjoy not being stuck at the shop for 80-90 hours each week.

Huseyin is a good man but he is not a marketing or retail person. It is just not in him. After a few years at the shop he was not very motivated and happy to get out of it. Can Can Tekel ve Bufe is still there in name, but its heart has changed. Although I have only seen a little of the shop under new management, it looks better and cleaner. I wonder how it will work out for them.

I will miss Huseyin abi, but the shop won’t miss him nor will he miss the shop.

What I read: Star by Danielle Steel

Last week I finished reading my first novel in a long time, Star, by Danielle Steel. In a place with a large selection of English reading material I would be embarrassed to go near a Danielle Steel book. Mersin is not such a place. Sevil gave me the second-hand paperback novel when she returned from the UK in summer.

I took a few months to read the first 60 or so pages. The last 340 pages were read in 4 nights. On one night, after 10 pm, I went through 170 pages (Shannon, you would be proud)! I was hooked and could not wait to read the next chapter.

Putting it simply, Star is a roller coaster story of love between a man and a woman set after World War 2 – sound clichéd and done-to-death? I didn’t find it so (maybe because I had nothing to compare it to).

The story involves different subjects, including: racism, politics, the basis of marriage, war, the Hollywood Machine and many, many others. Star contained several plot twists and most of the time I was clueless as to where the story was going next. I recommend it!

This novel has kick-started my reading habit and I hope to read several more books from now on.