Okay, besides all the culture shock and weird stuff, a lot else happened on my trip.
In transit, I chatted with several fascinating people:
– The Aussie married to a German who I sat next to on the flight from Munich to London
– The Dutch political science student also waiting for a bus in Heathrow who was in London for a conference
– The British pilot on the flight from Heathrow to Munich. He flew air ambulances for an insurance company as well as being an airline standards consultant.
– The Aussie in Heathrow Airport who had spent a harrowing time transiting through LAX (Los Angeles Airport). Even just to transit through the USA, a foreigner is required to give eye scans and fingerprints.
– The British doctor on the Ankara airport bus visiting Turkey for a week.
In Hertford, Jen and her flatmate, Flora looked after me wonderfully well. All 3 of us (and Rob the Scot from the same block) were foreigners: Jen comes from a town near Glasgow (Scotland) and Flora is from Galway (Ireland).
On Saturday I stocked up on rarities in the massive Cheshunt Tesco Extra, a hypermarket, part of Britain’s largest retailer. I was tempted to purchase far more than the curries, Tim Tams and other goods, but the British pound is much more valuable than the Turkish lira and I just bought the “must-haves”.
Besides Jen, Flora and Rob, I was very happy to meet Ryan, Erman, Chris, Karl, Nil, Fecir, Markus, Nadja and Lea.
Unfortunately, I will have to wait until next time to catch up with Tom, Richard, Carol, Calvin and Sue.
Markus and Nadja, my Munich friends, had their lives completely turned upside around in 2000 when their gorgeous daughter, Lea, was born with Down syndrome. Nadja is now president of the 150-strong Munich parents of down syndrome children association and fights for greater recognition and acceptance of the condition.
A certain friend, who shall remain nameless, recommended I buy a particular Sunday sport newspaper. This newspaper contained very little news or sport and was a definite eye-opener.
At a pub on the Thames opposite the cathedral, Karl and I bored Chris and Erman with a debate on the importance of Internet technologies. I won’t go on with it as there was no agreement in sight and this dead horse was well and truly whipped.
Most of my food goals for the trip were met. I managed to eat at Bollywoods, a great Indian restaurant;
sweet and sour pork at a Chinese restaurant;
Loin of pork;
a full English/Irish breakfast with bacon, eggs, pork sausages, beans and black pudding (cooked brilliantly by Flora);
and a German schnitzel with white asparagus and potatoes in Munich.
The first night back in Mersin I prepared ham and tomato macaroni.
Although pork is super, by the end of the trip I was also looking forward to Mersin’s fresh fruit and vegetables.
Many pubs were visited. Most pubs still have early closing (11 pm or 1 am) and we were kicked out of a few at closing time, particularly in Hertford. A noticeable difference between Mersin and the UK is the number of women in pubs and how late they stay. Go to any place in Mersin and I can almost guarantee there will be a 3:1 man to women ratio. In many pubs I went to on this trip there was an even mix.
– At Heathrow on the way back there were two police officers in normal uniform except for body armour and assault weapons. I didn’t ask to take a photo 🙂
– In Turkey the Sunday Express newspaper costs 6.75 new lira or 7,750,000 old. Well, that’s what the paper showed.
– Besides a few signs, there was not much evidence of the upcoming British national election.
– Jen and Flora’s monthly rent costs the same amount as my apartment’s yearly fee.
– At both Heathrow and Munich airports I coincidentally had the exact coinage (down to the last penny and cent, respectively) to pay for the purchases, meaning I wasn’t left with any Euro or pound coins.
– The weather was quite pleasant for the duration of the trip. In fact, on Thursday afternoon, Jen became mildly sunburnt.
– The 23rd was St. George’s Day and the St. George’s flag was displayed on houses and cars.
– One of the stations on the Hertford East-Liverpool Street train line is “Turkey Street”.
– The only touristy thing I did was the London Eye.
I am now back in Mersin and life is relatively normal again. The short trip was well worth it. After Turkey, sometime in the future, I may take up the ancestry visa option (Mum’s parents come from Britain) and earn a few pounds there. Thanks again to Jen and all who made the trip as fun as it was.
North of Pozanti, in the mountains north of Mersin.