Random Christmas Thoughts

a) It is late October so by now the Christmas-themed commercial overkill should have well and truly begun in Australia. My last Christmas lead-up period in a predominately Christian was 2000 in Australia and my previous Christmas in a Christian country was 2001 in Slovenia. Christmas day 2002 I was in transit in Istanbul, on my way to Sofia, Bulgaria, so that doesn’t count.

If all goes well, this Christmas I will be attending Hani’s wedding in Pakistan. I was all prepared to got to Hani’s wedding in 2005 until, unfortunately, it was called-off. Now I’ll again be able to use the Pakistan links I kept on the left column of this blog. My last 3 Christmases and New-Years were all in the Adana-Mersin area so I plan to be somewhere different this year!

b) A recent storm blew through the open window into my room and knocked my Russian Christmas souvenir off the wall.

Josh, brought the Santas from Russia to Slovenia for Christmas 2001 and mine survived until the storm.

c) A few years ago Annie and David sent a Christmas package from Australia. Included was a small Christmas tree decoration that I still hang from the apartment door:

d) As Christmas is traditionally held in hot weather with ham, prawns, summer fruits, cold beer, cricket and the beach, one year I may hold a ‘Christmas in July’ in Turkey. I just need to find the cricket, ham and mangoes. On that note, I’m about to go to Peter’s place to watch Australia take on India.

e) Amazon.com sent me an email for the ‘2006 Holiday Season’ including a link for their hot toys for 2006. I thought the digital cameras for Boys and Girls were interesting.

My New Canon A710 IS Camera

Taking a photo of itself in the mirror

Today, Serpil, a client of my company’s visited the office after returning from the US. With her she brought my new camera 🙂

Earlier this month I purchased a Canon PowerShot A710 IS 7.1MP Digital Camera with 6x Image-Stabilized Optical Zoom from amazon.com [amazon.co.uk link].

I decided to buy the A710 instead of the Canon SD700 (also known as the IXUS 800 IS) because of the A710’s 6x zoom and AA batteries. I wanted a camera with image stabilisation (IS) for better photos in lowlight or when moving. The extra zoom and IS would have been wonderful at the Pearl Jam concerts last month.

To complement the camera I also bought a SanDisk 1 GB Ultra II Secure Digital Memory Card.

I’m very happy to have a camera again and I look forward to shooting more photos and posting them on the blog.

Galatasaray 1, Ankaragucu 1, 14 October 2006: A Night At The Soccer

Saturday (14/10) evening I caught the Metro (underground train) two stations from Taksim to Sisli. Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Galatasaray’s home ground is 10 minute walk from the Sisli Metro station. Although I had never walked to Ali Sami Yen before, it wasn’t difficult to find-I simply followed the Galatasaray supporters in their red and yellow.

Around the stadium were spruikers selling sunflower seeds, Galatasaray merchandise, water, sandwiches and kofte (meatballs). In front of Galatasaray’s shop I waited for Ajda and her friends to arrive. In total there were 9 of us.

I was finally about to attend my first ever professional Turkish soccer match. Despite working across the river from Mersin’s main stadium I had never got around to attending a game. My dedication level to Mersin Idmanyurdu is not too high. At least I don’t support one of the Istanbul teams like most other Mersinites!

Once everyone had arrived, we got our tickets and lined up to enter the stadium. Fans are not allowed to bring coins into the stadium so, prior to entry, I emptied my coins and bought a few mini eclairs.

Auditor Emre, one of Ajda’s friends, was wearing a top with “GAUDI” written on it. I asked him if it stood for “Galatasaray Yahudi” (Galatasaray Jew). Obviously, not being sophisticated enough for Istanbul, I was wrong. Gaudi was a famous architect.

At the body search stage of entry, security asked about my balaclava. I took it off and jokingly told him it contained 5 kilograms of ‘bomba’ (bomb). In dangerous places like Australia and the US I would have been arrested for saying this.

The tickets cost 13 YTL each, including a 2 YTL service fee. Rather cheap, I reckon. Our section was ‘Yeni Acik Ust’, directly translated as: New Open Top, the left end of the pitch when watching on television.

The night was clear and cool (‘cold’ in Mersin language) but, unlike Ajda, I came prepared. As well as my balaclava (rolled up, of course), I wore two pairs of socks, inner and outer pants, 2 t-shirts, my Port Adelaide jumper, waterproof jacket, gloves and Port Adelaide scarf. It sounds like overkill but I was developing a cold and wanted to be ready for any kind of weather.

Most of our group were supporters of the current champions Galatasaray, although Ajda and I went for the underdogs and winless to that stage, Ankaragucu. As we were in the Galatasaray section we could not cheer too loudly for Ankaragucu lest we upset the locals.

Turkish soccer is very lopsided with only 4 teams having ever won the championship. All over Turkey most people support one of the 3 main Istanbul sides: Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas, even if their town has a team in the competition. The media coverage reflects this with each of the ‘big’ teams receiving dedicated pages (or two) in the newspapers with the remaining teams sharing one page together. I hope this lopsidedness in both success and support changes soon.

The stadium was over half full with an estimated crown of about 15,000 people in attendance. Prior to the game music and an MC pumped up the crowd. Two main groups of fans on opposing parts of the ground swapped chants with each other, one of them backed by booming drums. At the other end of the ground (right on the TV screen) a few hundred die-hard Ankaragucu supporters did their best to make a noise in the away team section.

The teams came onto the pitch and lined up for the national anthem (Istiklal Marsi, or Independence March). I assume the national anthem is played before every game. If so, isn’t this overkill?

The Game

Ankaragucu did very well, taking the initiative up to Galatasaray from the start and very nearly scoring early on. However, Galatasaray scored first and seemed to have most of the play until Ankaragucu drew level against the run of play (to Ajda and my delight).

I thought Ankaragucu played better as a team than Galatasaray. Galatasaray had more talent and more chances but did not put it together.

Ankaragucu fought bravely in the second half and with some luck, fierce determination and several yellow cards (to both sides) held on to a well-deserved 1-1 draw.

Many times Ankaragucu’s inspirational captain weaved past 3 or 4 Galatasaray players and I thought he was the man of the match. Unfortunately his support up front was lacking and Ankaragucu could not make the most of his runs. I don’t know why he was substituted with only two minutes to go.

After the final whistle went, to show their disgust at a mediocre performance, a few of the Galatasaray’s immature supporters threw objects, including water bottles onto the pitch. I really don’t know why some Turkish supporters are so pathetic. To those guys: sucked in! On a slightly related issue: if we had to get rid of our coins prior to entering the stadium (so they could not be used as missiles) why was change given when buying food and drink when inside? On the surface this makes no sense at all.

Overall, it was a fun night in good company, despite a couple of negatives:
a) I was suffering from the outset of a cold
b) It was difficult to remain somewhat neutral and not to cheer Ankaragucu on openly. I would love to yelled and screamed positively towards Ankaragucu and against Galatasaray but this would have upset some of the locals. In real football 😉 back in Australia, the crowds are mixed with supporters of both teams sitting together.

Following the game we joined the thousands of other game attendees making our way home via public transport. There seemed to be a significant number of Galatasaray supporters making their way back to Kadikoy.

Back in Beyoglu we went to Ozsut for a delicious ice cream and cake concoction before making it back to Ajda’s place and collapsing in bed.

Sabah Newspaper’s comical English write-up is here whilst a much better account from the heart of Ankaragucu is at Ankara Football.

My Istanbul Trip

The office is closed for four days for Seker Bayrami (sweets festival, otherwise known as Ramazan Bayrami, the end of Ramadan festival or Eid al-Fitr) and I will endeavour to catch up with the blog-posting.

I’m looking forward to a new photography play thing. Soon I will be able to shoot and post photos again. I will reveal all once I have it in my hands…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in Istanbul the weekend before last for an education-abroad seminar and fair. On the Friday afternoon, prior to taking the bus to Istanbul, a fierce storm hit Mersin, knocking down a tree next to work. If I had a camera, I would’ve posted a photo of the damage!

I looked forward to catching the Koksallar Seyahat bus for the overnight journey to Istanbul (45 YTL). In previous years I used to take inter-city buses very often, generally more than once a month. Prior to this trip, my last long-distance bus journey was returning from Antalya back in January and I was missing the Turkish long-distance bus experience. Cheap air tickets and less domestic travel have taken their toll on my bus ventures.

The new Mercedes bus faced traffic jams on the freeway through the Cilician Gates towards Pozanti. For 15 minutes hundreds of trucks and the odd bus and car on the three-laned highway moved very slowly. We passed a few accidents (probably coinciding with the storm), including a totally wrecked vehicle-I feared for the occupants.

Koksallar catered for both fasting and non-fasting passengers. Whilst still daylight we were offered drinks. However, as the sun set, and the time for iftar (fast-breaking meal) came, we stopped at Pozanti for a meal break, as opposed to the usual stopping place of Aksaray, a few hours down the road.

The journey to Istanbul took longer than expected and once free service bus from Esenler (‘Buyuk Otogar’ or main bus station) had reached Taksim it was time to find Ajda’s place in Beyoglu, get changed and make my way to the Hilton for a US visa seminar and then an education-abroad fair.

I was exhausted by the time I was finished by the fair and then buying my return Mersin bus ticket. Unfortunately, Ajda was on the Istanbul’s Asian side and no-one else was at home so I had to wait for more than an hour to get ‘home’ for a rest.

Saturday evening I saw Galatasaray take on Ankaragucu in my first ever Turkish professional soccer game. I will write a separate report on this match.

Waking up Sunday morning I was sick with a cold, despite drinking a litre of orange juice the previous day. My throat was sore in Mersin for 3 or 4 days prior to the trip and I was hoping I could stave off the cold.

On Sunday I vegged out and did little but rest. I wanted to play basketball with Ajda and Emre but I was too ill and stayed inside instead, only venturing onto heaving Istiklal Caddesi once to have a walk and get something to eat.

That evening I caught the bus back to Mersin. Being sick with a cold on a long overnight journey was not fun, as one can imagine.

I enjoyed catching up with Ajda and seeing the soccer game. However, like almost all of my previous visits to Istanbul, I was not in town long enough to get a good feel for the place. This will change in 2007…

Istanbul’dan Selam Soyle!

Hello from Istanbul. I didn’t know I was coming until Friday morning and that evening I was on the Koksallar bus. I came to attend a US visa seminar and visit an education-abroad fair for work. Last night I saw the heroic Ankaragucu hold Galatasaray to a draw in the soccer. Today I’m sick with a cold. Tonight I’m back on the bus again. I hope to write more soon.

Oven, Oven, Oven

I bought the Kumtel KF 3000 electric oven from Sok Market (part of Migros) on the way home from work this evening. At 33.90 YTL it was a bargain for a 32 litre oven.

The KF 3000 is the bottom of its range. It does not have a thermostat or timer, but that does not stop the front of the oven displaying times and temperatures to cook fish, chicken and other foods.

My current kitchen is small and the most convenient place to put the oven is on top of the fridge. Needless to write, the oven view at this position is not too good.

As a high school/university student my favourite self-prepared meal was the grilled cheese/tomato/avocado/ham/etcetera toast. Tonight, in celebration of the oven purchase, I went back to my old way. On top of Ramazan pide I added various combinations of stuffed green olives, capsicum, tomato, mushroom. oregano, dried basil, Swiss salami, whole grain mustard and tulum cheese (the Turkish equivalent to Mozarella). Although it wasn’t perfect, I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to cook with the oven again.

On a side note: Turkish homes often do not contain ovens. In my first Turkish home, the oven was used to store potatoes and onions and nothing else.

Cycling All Over Turkey

On Thursday morning Bulgarian biochemist Jordan cycled into Mersin. During the previous couple of months he had covered several thousand kilometres cycling from Bulgaria into and around Turkey. Averaging around 80 kilometres a day Jordan has cycled on his standard racing bicycle through Canakkale, Ankara, Van, Kilis and all points in between. Writing the obvious, he is a very fit man!

Months ago, prior to starting his bike ride, Jordan found my website and contacted me. Prior to email and mobile telephone, arranging the meeting would have been next to impossible. Jordan is the latest of many interesting people I have met via this website.

By the time he got to Mersin, Jordan was tired of continuously cycling, camping in fields and petrol stations and wanted a day off. The hot shower, comfortable bed and local-free evening were most likely also appreciated. In the evening I made a mixed vegetable pasta dish with the added luxury of Swiss Italian-style salami. Over a few beers, I showed Jordan photos of Syria and Iran, places he wanted to cycle around in the future.

Friday morning, after repairing his umpteenth flat tyre, Jordan headed west on the road to Silifke.