Is this Picture for real or is it a Turkish Stereotype?

UPDATE: Century 21: 1, Joe’s Ramblings: 0. The picture is real. See base of post for explanation.

In the “IK” (Insan Kaynaklari, Human Resources) section of today’s Hurriyet newspaper I saw an interesting advertisement. If I’m not mistaken, the Century 21 advert promotes a franchising seminar and draws upon the global presence of this real estate company. The sentence on the bottom of the picture roughly translates as:

From America to Japan; France to Turkey, Century 21 is the world’s largest name in real estate with more than 120,000 real estate consultants in 96 countries.

The picture shows a Japanese family and a Century 21 consultant in front of a Century 21 office. Is the picture real or is it a group of Turkish people made to look Japanese according to Turkish stereotypes?

I am not an expert on Japan and have never visited the country. However, I find it hard to believe the picture accurately represents a Japanese family because:

a1) The man is pulling a cart! (Japan is a very high tech country)

a2) A man pulling a cart can afford to use Century 21????

b) They have a large dog (Japan is one of the most crowded countries on earth and very few people have room for a large dog)

c) There are 3 children (Japan is very crowded and expensive smaller families are the norm)

d) How common are those forms of clothing and hairstyles?

Sure, no doubt some families in Japan do share some of the above characteristics, but I doubt many, if any, share all the characteristics.

In my opinion, it is likely the advert was shot in Turkey, because:

a) Some Turkish people do have Asian characteristics and it would take little work to make them look more ‘Asian’.

b) A large proportion, probably a large majority, of Turkish people are not intimate with the different East Asian cultures. I wonder if the cart pulling idea is from China?

c) The female faces seem strained, as if they have to hold a certain look to exaggerate their ‘Asian ness’.

d) The family situation in the photo suits Turkish culture perfectly (it may also suit Japanese culture).

I have yet to ask any Japanese friends whether the photo is from Japan or not and I don’t know what the Japanese writing refers to. I am willing to accept the photo is from Japan if a more knowledgeable person says so.

This is not the first time I have witnessed very questionable, stereotypical media in Turkey. I am certain this kind of stereotyping and fabrication occurs in all countries as well. However, in a country with more exposure to other races, the chances of blatant and obviously stereotyped examples are lower.

See for yourself:

UPDATE [2004/12/09]: As Yutaka, the cool Japanese trainee living in Denizli, has kindly pointed out in the comments section, the picture is for real!

Check the comments for his explanation.

Century 21: 1, Joe’s Ramblings: 0

The Gozne Picnic: to Snow or not to Snow?

27 November 2004

Last night Kadriye, AIESEC Adana’s Local Committee President, along with Manuel and Victor, two Columbian trainees, came to Mersin on the train from Adana. They were to stay at my place before going to Gozne for a picnic in the snow. With the cold weather Mersin has experienced recently, I expected snow at Gozne although I had not heard any confirmation of its arrival.

After a few hot liqueur coffees we headed to the “Moby Dick” bar to meet my neighbour, Taner, and see his brother-in-law, Bulent, sing. Bulent sings Turkish pop and folk songs backed by a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist. He duly sang my request of Cile Bulbulum. In seats first row, stage right, sat two prostitutes. As Taner is entering the military service soon, we made some jokes concerning his ‘needs’.

28 November 2004

On this beautiful, sunny morning, Kadriye, Manuel, Victor, Orhan and I left in my boss’s second car for the journey to Gozne. Although Gozne is only 25 km from Mersin, the road is steep and windy in various places and the packed Renault Toros running on LPG does not race over the hills.

Against expectations, Gozne did not have snow! The only snow visible was on distance mountain ranges. We have to go back later in the winter to see snow.

The sucuk (Turkish sausage), mushroom, tomato and onion cooked with a coal-powered small Turkish “mangal” (barbecue) along with fresh bread made for super sandwiches. Absolutely super!

Although there was no snow, we did find small ice crystals on the steep climb up the nearby pine tree covered hill. By the time we came to the summit, we were all exhausted.

On the way back to Mersin we stopped 3 times:

1) To enjoy the view from Gozne Castle (1 million lira entrance fee)

2) For a cup of tea and fried, sugar syrup soaked sweets at a roadside cade/restaurant. One of the sweets contained fresh cream inside and another walnuts. Both were very delicious.

3) To buy persimmons from a roadside seller. The peak of the current persimmon season has passed, but they still taste fabulous. The persimmons sold by the man were hard so I will have to wait for the 10 kilograms I bought to soften before I eat them. I also purchased 2 kilograms of apples. Manuel has never eaten a persimmon.

In summary, although we did not experience snow, making the trip to Gozne was still worth the effort. There are preliminary plans to make another trip later in winter once the snow has definitely arrived.

Winter is here

The rain last Sunday signalled the beginning of winter in southern Turkey. The temperature upon return to Turkey was 5-10 degrees lower than before I left. Today’s forecast maximum for Mersin was only 10 degrees centigrade!

My house now feels like a fridge. At least I have the gas heater to warm the place.

Tonight some trainees will visit from Adana. We plan to have a barbecue at Gozne, in the mountains above Mersin. Hopefully, Gozne will have a covering of snow. The weather is certainly cold enough to provide the white powder. The 2 Columbian trainees have never experienced a barbecue in the snow.

Syria Revisited

Besides the wedding, other notable points from my trip to Syria were:

– Celine and Bangali’s wonderful cooking. The tomato soup and African peanut chicken dish were exquisite!

– On Saturday we visited the sight of Saint Simeon just out of Aleppo where the ruined cathedral, including St. Simeon’s pillar are located.

– Shopping! After visiting Saint Simeon, we went shopping in the centre of Aleppo for goodies to bring back to Turkey. I bought Cashew nuts (not found in Mersin), Arabic coffee, Syrian flat bread, Saudi dates and 6 kilos of gourmet Aleppian sweets.

– Rain poured all day Sunday. The taxi back to Antakya attempted to surf the puddles on the road several times.

– At the border I purchased 1-litre bottles of Kahlua and Tia Maria for the bargain price of 13 Euros each. I don’t know why I chose 2 coffee liqueurs when I already have homemade Kahlua maturing at home. I guess I had coffee on the brain. My receipt given to me by the very friendly shop worker not only included the 2 bottles but also 3 cartons of Marlboro cigarettes. Hmmm… I wonder if tax-free cigarettes are smuggled into Turkey. Of course not…

An Aleppian High Society Wedding

On the weekend I travelled to Aleppo to see friends Bangali and Celine again. The journey there on Friday consisted of a bus to Antakya (10,000,000 TRL) followed by a taxi to Aleppo (USD $15 or 750 Syrian pounds or 22,500,000 TRL or 22.50 YTL). The visa at the border now costs the equivalent of USD $32 versus the $30 from last year.

That night we, along with Yuko, Bangali and Celine’s Japanese neighbour, were to attend the wedding reception of their landlord’s son. He was marrying the daughter of the owner of Aleppo’s 2nd largest hotel, the Pullman Al Shahba. The reception was to begin at 10, yes, 10 pm!

After some difficulty finding the Aleppo Club, we eventually arrived at the venue. Through the door, past the jacket counter and up the dual twirling staircases the bride and groom’s families greeted us at the half tacky, half sophisticated function room entrance. The ‘handshakes’ by a few of the women were the limpest I have ever felt. Culture, I guess. I did not felt ultra comfortable, not knowing anybody whose hard earned $$$ were paying for my entertainment tonight. Still, I was very much looking forward to the experience.

The four of us were placed at a table with 3 middle-aged German couples (the landlord was first married to a now deceased German lady, so the children are half-German). This was the foreigner table, located in the corner close to the drink stand from where the waiters obtained the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Out of respect, I remained completely sober.

Approximately 150-200 formally dressed guests were seated. Most of the women did not wear headscarves and I believe it was a mixed Muslim and Christian audience. As Celine stated, the “creme de la creme” of Aleppian society were in attendance. Trade wise, I would love to be on a friendly basis with all the business people in the room.

Salads, cheese and cold meat platters covered the tablecloths. For an event beginning at 10 pm, the 5 courses lasted well into the night. A copy of the menu is below. Even though the international audience of the reception was just one table with only one native English speaker, the menu is in both Arabic and English.

Fresh dill and rind less lemon slices complemented the fish well. The lemon sorbet, I was told, pushed the previously eaten food down, creating an appetite for the following courses. I don’t recall eating truffles before, not in Syria, anyway!

The dessert consisted of a flat apple pie with ice cream along, a piece of wedding cake and exotic fruits. The fruits included delicious custard apple (new to my 3 companions), pineapple, an out of season hard but edible mango, kiwi fruit and the usual banana and apple.

Music, Ceremony and Dancing
Near the start of the evening, a violinist played a few tunes to add to the atmosphere.

The music the couple arrived to was actually the same classical tune my work uses for its radio advertisements. I do not recall its name, but it is not a tune I would normally associate with either radio commercials or weddings.

Around the 3 layers of wedding cake, glorified sparklers lit up the central area and grabbed everyone’s attention.

The second live music act was a singer who sang old European standards, largely French, but also the odd English, Spanish and Italian song.

The third, main and final music group included a guitarist, percussionist, keyboardist and singer. This quartet played music very similar to the music at many Turkish weddings, a kind of Arabesque. According to Bangali (who is fluent in Arabic) the singer entertained the audience very well with his singing, quips and remarks.

Unsurprisingly, the couple were the first on the dance floor. Following them were immediate family couples and then other couples joined fray, waltzing to the European standards.

With the Arabesque, more of the guests (including myself) went on the dance floor and danced similarly to the Turkish style I had seen so many times before. I was actually surprised at how many people did dance. I expected the affair to be a bit more conservative.

At various times of the night, some guests ululated (thanks Tom) as a sign of appreciation for the wedding couple.

By 3 am the night was winding down and the four of us joined many of the other guests in exiting the building, saying good bye to the wedding couple and immediate family on the way. Waiting outside for the newly married husband and wife was a Lebanese number plated stretch limousine. I guess the vehicle was going to head to the Pullman hotel, where the husband and wife would enjoy their night together in the penthouse suite …… THE END

I will write more about the trip to Syria and catch up with my emails soon, I promise!

Another Birthday Today

Another entity which shared my birthday today was the Back Pages Blog. 1 year ago Chris Sheil gave birth to his Ozplog (Australian political blog). For the past several months I have visited Back Pages, along with John Quiggin (and others), for my daily fix of Australian opinion and politics.

Today, Chris closed his blog with a useful blogging manifesto. I could follow some of his ideas, particularly the editing suggestion!

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Aleppo, Syria, for a short trip to see Bangali and Celine again. I’ll be back in the office Monday and sometime after this I will update this website all the Syrian gossip.

1 day too early

Today, to my surprise, a birthday cake was brought out in the office. One of the previous workers had written a list of the staff members’ birthday dates. Mine was written as 17 November…one day too early…oh, well, the 18th had already arrived in Australia and I can never complain about fresh Turkish chocolate cream cake.

Here are Ahmet, Sevil and the almost-birthday boy:

The Essence of Kahlua

The end of Ramazan holidays are over and today it was back to work. On Monday I made some coffee liqueur, a.k.a.: Kahlua. I followed 3 different Kahlua recipes and added my own touches. One of my touches was enforced: using vanilla powder instead of the vanilla essence required by all 3 recipes.

I looked for vanilla essence (or vanilla beans) everywhere but could not find it. Cetinkaya, the 4 storey department store/supermarket did not have it, neither did the mega store Carrefour, where I twice walked to after it wasn’t open the first time. I eventually settled for pure vanilla powder from a spice shop in the bazaar. How much per kilo? 250 new lira or 250,000,000 present day lira. I decided 20 grams was enough and forked over the 5 million for it.

In Mersin the only vanilla ingredient for sale in almost all shops is vanilla sugar, sold in 5 gram sachets. Vanilla sugar is very commonly used for cooking.

The method I used to make Kahlua on Monday is below. All the ingredient measures are imprecise as I use taste and feel to guide my cooking, not science.


100 grams instant coffee
1-kilo brown sugar (also hard to find in Mersin)
50 grams cocoa powder
1 litre water
20 grams pure vanilla powder
700 ml vodka


1) Add the coffee, sugar, cocoa and water to a large saucepan (or in my case, a flat-bottomed wok).
2) On low heat, gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring every now and then.
3) Once cooled, add the vanilla and vodka and mix until thoroughly integrated.
4) Bottle and store, occasionally shaking, for 1 month before use.

    To Serve

a) With milk and ice
b) On the rocks
c) Pour on ice cream
d) In your favourite coffee liqueur cocktail

Some advice when making the coffee liqueur: do not taste the coffee-sugar-cocoa mix too many times. Pure coffee, sugar and cocoa lead to a caffeine and sugar ‘high’. It was not a pleasant feeling!

I will write again in mid December, once the product has matured and give you my thoughts on how the homemade Kahlua worked out.

UPDATE: The Kahlua brew is not perfect but still very good, particularly added to Turkish coffee. With all the cocoa, the drink has a chocolate-coffee aroma. Next time I would probably use half as much cocoa and add the vanilla powder to the mix earlier.
If one has liquid vanilla escence it should still be added at the end.