29 October 2006

The Man

Today is a holiday - Republic Day.

[Its also the end of Daylight Saving - so we are really glad that its a holiday and we don't have to work because us West Oz people are not familiar with Daylight Saving and we get a little confused. They trialled DS in West Oz once but abandoned it because the cows didn't know when to come in to be milked and the extra sunlight caused some peoples' curtains to fade ...]

Today in Turkey we all remember that wonderful man, Ataturk, the founder of this great nation.

I don't know a whole lot about him (yet), but I definitely know what he looked like.


Absolutely EVERY single classroom, office, shop, restaurant, park, roadway, bedroom (?) ... everywhere there are images of him - either a photo/drawing/painting or one of these heads coming out of the wall at you. This one is in the foyer of the Dilko office in Kadikoy.

Yesterday my classes were disturbed by bugle-playing somewhere just outside, and then there was a lot of loud piped music of masses of people singing patriotic songs. This continued late into the day, with some sort of rousing political speeches and cheering. As far as I could tell, the sound was all coming from loud-speakers at the nearby railway station. I didn't see anyone paying any attention to it.

Apparently he was the good guy. You would never dare to say anything against him.

28 October 2006

Holiday in Altinova

Ali is Jordanian, but he speaks excellent English and Turkish too, and he works here at Dilko doing all sorts of general jobs - mostly helping us foreigners with things like opening a bank account etc. So when he suggested that we join a few others at his holiday home in southern Turkey over the Bayram holiday, we jumped at the chance. He was unsure whether there would be room for us to stay in his house, (if not we would stay at a nearby pension or small hotel), and whether there would be room for us in his rental car ... eventually we were booked onto an overnight coach, along with a young colleague, Stephanie, for the eight-hour journey.


The three of us caught a shuttle bus - which was running quite late and already so packed with people and bags before we squeezed aboard that Peter had to stand with his feet between bags and his head bent to get under the low roof - to "Autogar": a massive concrete structure that feels like something out of a science fiction movie. There are levels and pillars and ramps, with coaches, cars and mini-buses (like our shuttle) winding their way through the veritable maze in all directions, while various offices and service stations are tucked away inside at lower levels. Finally reaching the top surface we were dropped off next to our Hakiki Coach, and proceeded (per Ali's instructions) to phone him and then hand the phone to the co-driver so he could give instructions for dropping us off because the bus was going to Ayvalik but we were going to Altinova.

The co-driver - a very young-looking (maybe 18 or so) eagerly efficient young man - was quite annoyed by having the phone thrust in his hand, and even more irritated when Stephanie and I got on the bus with our bags and then had to push our way off again to have them stowed below, and then wanted to know where the toilet was (it had been a long wait for the shuttle-bus and a long drive ahead ..) as the bus was about to leave but we thought we had another hour to go.

Between ourselves we soon labelled this already frustrated young man the "bus nazi" as he then tried to organise us into his seating arrangements. According to our tickets, Peter and I had two seats together, and Stephanie was in the window seat on the other side. The young guy came and pointed with a straight hand, fingers together, to each of us and then firmly toward the seats where he wanted us to move. We were quite confused, and tried to do as we were told, pushing our way out of our seats and into different seats several times before it occured to us what he was on about. It would be unthinkable for a single girl (Stephanie) to sit next to a man ... so he wanted me to sit next to her and Peter to take her seat.

We sorted ourselves out, but then in no time at all he was cross again and pointing at us ... oh, we had our phones still on, and the (Turkish) sign said to turn off all phones.

A long night

It took us a couple of hours to get from Autogar through the streets of Istanbul - stopping to pick up more passengers at a number of points - and across the Bosphorus into Asia, and then to the shores of the (other side of the) Sea of Marmara. Here the bus stopped in a queue waiting to get onto a ferry to go across a large bay. A lot of people jumped off and stood around smoking - it seems almost everyone smokes in Turkey - and Peter wandered off looking for a toilet. Fortunately he didn't notice the huge 'WC' sign, because all of a sudden someone in the front of the line started their engine and so did everyone else ... and the bus took off as people still tried to pile back onto the bus. As Peter said, imagine coming out of the toilet to find the bus gone - onto one of the ferries, but which one?

On the ferry we were able to get off and walk around, go to the toilet and cafe, the trip was about 45 minutes. Then we all climbed aboard and the bus drove off toward south Turkey.

Sometime near midnight we stopped at this huge bus station. It was very foggy and there were a couple of dozen buses. There were toilets again, and a couple of very efficient restaurants serving drivers and passengers.

bus station

We hadn't heard any announcement about how long we would be stopping, so we were standing around near the bus when I suddenly noticed our short bald driver climb aboard. We quickly climbed into our seats, and once again within seconds he had started the engine and was driving off.

Arriving in Altinova

Around 5am they started dropping people off at various points in the countryside. At one time we noticed we went past the same roundabout in a small town three times - the driver was lost or confused or maybe the passengers weren't paying attention to when to get off. When the driver wanted to speak to his young assistant he would flash the interior lights, and the young man would jump as if he'd been stung and rush down to the front.

It was our understanding that we would be getting off at Altinova, before the bus finally stopped in Ayvalik. So it was a little concerning for us when we arrived in Ayvalik still on the bus. We started jumping around a bit, grabbing our things, and were firmly told to sit back down. Peter thought about ringing Ali - got out his phone and turned it on - but was noticed and instructed to turn it off!

Finally (after leavig Ayvalik) the bus drove past a signpost to Altinova. The driver stopped, and reversed back, and turned down the road. Somewhere in the middle of town he stopped, and we were told to get off. We rummaged around under the bus - couldn't find Stephanie's bag. Stephanie climbed right inside to look for it.

Steph under bus

Suddenly the driver had had enough. He started the engine, honked his horn and flashed his lights. Finally Stephanie came across her bag and scrambled out. The young chap barely had time to close the luggage door, the bus was already moving as he jumped aboard.

So there we were in the middle of a street in Altinova in the early hours of the morning.

Altinova street

We phoned Ali, who graciously roused himself from his alcohol-induced sleep to come and look for us. He was a bit puzzled about where to find us, as he had thought we would have been at the bus station.

Funny little town, Altinova. We found this little internet cafe amusing - sort of the interface between two eras.

Altinova internet

The Holiday House

Ali's car screeched to a halt and he backed up the street when he suddenly caught sight of us. We piled in and drove the ten minutes or so to his beach house. There is a whole town of these little holiday homes, and almost no one around despite this being the Bayram holiday and the weather just delightful.

holiday house

Three floors, three bedrooms, three toilets, and a little garden - quite a treat for people who are habitually city-dwellers. Ali had been quite clear about one reason for being there - he has only recently bought the property and there is some work that needs to be done on it. We were quite happy to join in with sanding down and re-varnishing the balcony balustrades.

Ali and his fiancee Dilek finished off the first floor balcony.


Ali was also keen for Peter's help with the garden, planting some trees,

planting trees

and mowing the lawn - something he had heard of but never really seen done.

earthquake protection

This interesting arrangement we noticed when the weeds were cleared away is apparently all part of anti-earthquake measures. These houses are all structured to fall a certain way to limit damage and injuries.

Inside the house had all mod cons. The obligatory spiral staircase that seems to be part of Turkish architecture:

spiral stairs

A lovely little kitchen where we all (us three, Ali and Dilek, and friends Omer and Burcu) pitched in to prepare food and clean up.


And outside on the verandah (as with all these holiday homes, we noticed) a little fireplace - where Ali cooked up some delicious chicken wings.

ali cooking

Altinova Beach

It wasn't all work, of course, the weather was just perfect, and the beach only five minutes' walk away.

Altinova beach

Look at the crowds! Well, maybe in the other direction ...

altinova beach

I guess its packed in the summer! Maybe everyone thinks the water is cold this time of year.

swimming aegean

That's Stephanie with her feet floating. Her big surprise was, "Oh! Its salt!" This is the Aegean Sea, Steph, not Lake Michigan ...

A night on the town - Ayvalik

Ali wanted to show us a good time (after all the hard work!) so we all - seven of us - piled into the tiny rental car and drove to Ayvalik ... we had to keep the window open with Stephanie's head hanging out.

We drove through town - what a pretty place, all hills and bays (not flat like Altinova) - and across a causeway to an island. Ah, here is where all the people were!

ayvalik restaurant

We managed to snag one of the hundreds of tables by the waterside and enjoyed some excellent (as ever) Turkish cuisine - although more expensive than we usually indulge in here in Istanbul.

Then we wandered through the stalls at a touristy market place - Steph bought some shell ear-rings that she was very pleased with. (We were very puzzled on the Altinova beach to find a lot of pebbles on the tide-line, but no shells.) Then we followed our ears to an old barn that had been converted into a pub.

ayvalik pub ayvalik singer

It was very dark and smokey, and the skinny singer sang loudly in Turkish. We squeezed back into the little car and trundled home to the little house by the beach.


We had bought open return bus tickets, but when we tried to book our return there were no vacancies. That's okay, said Ali, there is another friend driving down here later and they will drive you back. Then said friend changed their mind, and we had to try the buses again. Finally we managed to get a booking a day later, after Ali and friends had returned to Istanbul.

Altinova is a lovely quiet little place ... I sat on a bench by the beach and I could hear only one sound - a bee buzzing near my feet. An excellent change from Istanbul city! But what to do? Even the few restaurants and shops were mostly closed. We had no vehicle. The most excitement was when a pack of dogs came and barked at me when I tried to go for a bit of a walk ...

Drinking Tea

Turkish tea - or "chay" - is very mellow and pleasant. It is served in these delightful little glasses, with a tiny teaspoon to stir in your sugar-lumps.


It takes a little longer to make than tea-bag tea, relieves some of the boredom.

And then there was the (burst) keg of beer we found Ali had forgotten about when we cleaned out the freezer.

frozen beer

Lots of froth, but not drinkable, however a passing cat tried licking the spills off the keg we left near the gate with the garbage.

There were interesting signs to take photos of. What do you think it means ...?

dur sign

We discovered a pack of cards, and Stephanie taught Peter how to play the Turkish game "Pishta', endlessly ...


And, of course, we all had turns on my Palm games.

playing palm

After we had packed up and cleaned up, we still had hours to spare. We thought maybe the sun setting over the Aegean Sea might be worth a look. We were aware that the sun wouldn't sink into the sea because there are some Greek Islands in between. So we went and spent a couple of hours watching the sun go down.

At first the Greek islands were invisible in the haze, but as the sun got lower we could just see the outline. In the end, the display was not nearly as spectacular as we had hoped ... well, not spectacular at all, really. Pretty, though.

aegean sunset

Back on the Bus

The taxi Ali had organised before he left turned up early to take us to the bus station - but we were thoroughly ready.

We got on the coach ready to face another 'bus nazi', and when they started trying to move us around I insisted I wanted to sit with my husband, and so they found another (loudly complaining!) woman to sit next to Stephanie. We were familiar this time with the big bus station food stop, and the ferry, and Autogar when we arrived there about 8 in the morning. We were very tired having not slept, and we were told there would be a shuttle bus to take us back to Bakirkoy - so when a little man with no neck pointed to an empty mini-bus and opened the sliding door from a distance with a special remote (which he was obviously very proud of because he then proceeded to open and close it several times ...) we obediently climbed aboard. After a few minutes it occured to us that there was no way this bus would go anywhere until it was full, but we were too tired to climb off and go find and negotiate the Metro railway, which we knew was not far away.

Over the next hour, more and more people and a great deal more bags arrived on our bus. One chap had to stand - Peter was glad it wasn't him this time. The bus headed off through the Autogar maze and out onto the street, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly it stopped on the side of a wide, busy road-way, right under an overpass footpath, and we were ordered off. We had no idea where we were, we looked frantically every which way but recognised nothing. Someone in the back of the bus suddenly asked if we spoke German - Stephanie does, and he explained to her that if we went over the pedestrian walkway we could catch a Dolmus (mini-bus) to Bakirkoy. Peter was the last to get off the bus, and as he tried to extricate his feet from among the bags and boxes he crashed his poor head into the closing mechanism at the top of the door, and stepped out dazed and in great pain (but fortunately only very slight bleeding).

We climbed up the steps of the overpass, and suddenly Stephanie realised we could turn either way from where we stood, we had no idea which side of the street to look for the Dolmus. Looking down onto the road we noticed a taxi sitting by the road, so we headed down and climbed aboard. We asked him what the fare would be, and he told us five ... but we weren't sure if he had said "five each". We decided we would pay whatever it took, we just wanted to get home to bed.

To our relief we were in Bakirkoy in about ten minutes, and he did only charge us five altogether.

Yep, it was a good holiday. Back to work the next morning.

20 October 2006

The Earth Moved

An experience in the bathroom

So I was sitting there - just a few minutes ago - and suddenly I noticed that the bathroom door was swinging back and forth. I gave this some thought, because the bathroom is a totally inside room, and - other than the trapdoor in the corner - there is no possibility of air passing through ...

And then my throne shifted, sideways several times. I opened my mouth to call Peter, but he was already calling out "Hey! Did you feel that?"

We know this is an earthquake zone, but that was a funny little tremor. Maybe its just our building settling into a hole.

We called to our friends next door who were out on their balcony having a smoke, but they hadn't noticed anything.

But me, I have my shoes on. I'm ready to head down those steps. I might even sleep with my shoes on tonight.

19 October 2006

Escape from Bakirkoy

We live in Bakirkoy - not the most upmarket part of Istanbul (but we like it).

Istanbul is seated on the Bosphorus, the waterway that links the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

istanbul map

The western side of Istanbul is in Europe, and the eastern side is in Asia.

We live, and work, on the European side, near where it says "Yesilkoy" on the map, right on the sea of Marmara. Our school also has a branch on the Asian side, near where it says "Uskudar" on the map. And there is a third branch on the European side - both of these are in more 'upmarket' areas.

Riding the Sea Bus

So in the (nearly) three weeks we have been here, I have been stuck in little old Bakirkoy. Not wanting to head off on my own, with Peter and I working opposite shifts, its been difficult to find a time to go anywhere.

Yesterday he had no morning class, and I had none until the evening, so we hopped on a "Sea Bus" and went across to the other side!

sea bus wait

We just plain mis-read the timetable (which is in Turkish and English!) and arrived at the sea-bus station (only about a fifteen minute walk from our place) just in time to see the boat heading off, so we had a 40 minute wait. In peak hours the sea-bus leaves every few minutes, at quieter times its more than an hour between boats.

sea bus arriving

Soon our bus came steaming in - they are powerful fast-moving catamarans, very stable and comfortable.

We climbed aboard and grabbed a window seat upstairs. We noted with pride that the vessel had been built by good old Austal Ships in Western Australia.

looking back at bakirkoy

And soon I was looking back at Bakirkoy for the first time in three weeks.

The trip across to Kadikoy took about twenty minutes, and there was only one patch where the boat rocked just slightly as we went through some ocean swell.

In Kadikoy we visited the office of our school, and enjoyed a meal in the roof-top cafeteria with Cem, one of the bosses.

Cem and peter

Kadikoy is definitely more upmarket than our little Bakirkoy, as shown by this one main street, I haven't seen anything this wide in Bakirkoy.

Kadikoy main street

But you don't have to stray far to find yourself pushing your way along a narrow, crowded alley again.

17 October 2006


We had difficulty finding a company in China that would transport our stuff from there directly to Turkey. China and Turkey do not generally deal.

But then we found "Seven Seas", and they promised to take our stuff for us. It would take ten weeks, they told us, and they were very efficient about taking our boxes, and our money. That was back in July.

As we were leaving Australia at the end of September, we received an email from Seamus - the Chinese chappy who so efficiently took our cargo - saying that our boxes had arrived in London, and warning us that there would be considerable import duties to bring them into Turkey.

We responded with some surprise, saying that we didn't expect to pay import duties on our personal items, winter clothes etc, but we were prepared to pay whatever it took.

A week after arriving in Turkey, still no boxes ... we wrote several emails to young Seamus asking what was going on.

Then I got a phone call from a lady in the Seven Seas office. She explained that they do not do business with Turkey, in fact stopped doing so well before they ever took our boxes.

She explained that Turkey is so corrupt that China cannot do business with them.

Yeah, that's pretty amusing! Talk about the pot and the kettle.

She wanted us to provide Seven Seas with a letter of indemnity saying it wasn't their fault, and that we will pay any necessary duties ... and then they will send our boxes with a different carrier from London to Istanbul.

That's a week and a half ago. We sent them their letter. We've heard nothing, and still no boxes. And today is the first cold day, it would be good to have those winter clothes soon!

16 October 2006

Another Week

So I have survived another weekend.

In another world that would mean a lot of partying and celebration, going out, being with friends etc.

In this life weekend is work-time. 'Only' one four-hour class on Saturday, but two four-hour classes on Sunday (with a forty-minute lunch-break). No matter how you play it, that makes for a gruelling day.

So today is payback - no classes until 7.30pm.

The Koleji

morning anthem

Dilko, where we work, has several strings to its bow. One of them is the College. This is a new venture, and the courtyard, volleyball court, science lab etc have only just been set up to accomodate the students' needs.

So here is the college at its morning assemble. Five boys (there are seven altogether when they all finally arrive) slouching to the strains of the National Anthem - an old scratchy orchestral recording -while the grey-haired fatherly principal conducts, under the watchful eye of their pony-tailed British teacher.

12 October 2006

Bash Bits

Do you know what this is?


About a week after we arrived, I couldn't believe how itchy my head was. I remember this feeling from when I was teaching primary school during the years of 'nits epidemic' we had in Western Australia ... and I couldn't believe this could be why my head was itchy now.

I asked Peter to take a look, and sure enough there were lots of little white things.

Where did I catch them? From our grandkids in Australia?? From someone here??

In the end it doesn't matter. I have to do something about it.

I found a little chemist shop, the only actual chemist I have seen. There are lots of shops selling beauty products, but this one is a chemist with a single counter and a wall of medicine-laden shelves. A fragile-looking middle-aged lady in a white coat was sitting on a chair resting her arms on the counter.

I walked in and pointed to my head - "bash" (head) - and then I said "bit". Her tired look turned to something more like disapproval as she sat up and backed away a little. I don't remember where I found the word - somewhere on the internet - but apparently it was the correct word. She muttered something to the young lad that was nearby, and he rummaged under the counter and came out with the bottle of good old Kwellada.

I hope this does the trick.

11 October 2006

Eating Out

People say, "Why did you choose to come to Turkey?" and they don't usually accept "why not?" as an answer.

Well, the food alone is a good enough reason.

Absolutely nothing yucky here. And everything beautiful prepared, delightfully presented, and respectfully served.

But its the month of Ramadam, so the faithful at least are fasting during daylight hours.

Our upstairs neighbour is obviously one of the faithful - I've never seen her (and them), as far as I am aware, but I sure hear her. I hear her bed creak as she climbs out in the gloom around 4 am to have breakfast before prayer time at 5.30. In the evening, its time to eat and the whole family gathers, thundering up the spiral stairs past our door, talking, yelling and slamming an unbelievable number of doors. After the rumble of voices over a shared meal, its time for TV, or a DVD maybe. But first the furniture has to be moved - all of it, a long way. They have a wide-screen TV and/or surround-sound speakers, and the movie sounds tremble down through our walls and ceiling. Finally the movie is over, and some little darling needs to have a bit of a runaround. There are fast thundering footsteps up and down the apartment, the sound that can only be made by short legs in a hurry. Then of course everything is returned to its place, the family heads back out the door and down the stairs, and with a creak (and a sigh - from me) grandma slides into bed for a few hours.

Its considered disrespectful to eat in the open on the streets during the daytime. But why would you, with so many wonderful little restaurants to go into. As evening approaches the restaurant scene starts getting into gear for the rush. The restauranteurs are standing in their doorways, calling, and people are rushing hither and thither.

We were on the street around this time, just exploring the locale, and thinking we should soon settle on an eating place before everything was overcrowded. The sky was angry looking - it would rain very soon - and a pre-rain breeze was blowing.

cafe by the rail

We came across this delightful cafe area, and only a few people seated there. A whiteboard announced that at one of the cafes we could get a bowl of soup (with bread), and a doner, and something else (not sure what it meant) all for 8 YTL - about AU$7. So we got the attention of the crazy-eyed waiter, and pointed to the board. In no time at all our food arrived. A bowl of delicious lentil soup, with some other elusive flavours, and a basketful of fresh bread. We were full after that, but then the doner arrived. There was a plate of rice - a mixture of long grain white and some brown wild rice - covered with shavings of almost crisp lamb, and a few potato chips and salad as well. It was a huge plateful - and then the waiter brought the basket with the bed-sheet-size (well almost) flat bread we were supposed to wrap it all in. And finally a little plate with three balls of the amazing honey-soaked cake they sell in all the bakeries.

There were a couple of patient little cats hanging around - there are cats everywhere - and I was happy to share a few titbits from my meal with them too. After all, they asked very nicely. The rain began, and we waddled home feeling thoroughly satisfied.

Hanging Out

The washing that is.

I have always been a bit paranoid about dangling my washing and personal items in general over vast spaces. I have admired people who can hang their washing on poles and lines from buildings ten stories and more above a busy street. And I was always glad that we had a safe indoors-type place, or on-the-balcony washing line.

washing lines

Now I have one of those over-the-edge lines, and it does make me nervous, especially if I am hanging something big like sheets. But I'm getting better at it. Haven't dropped anything yet - other than one clothespeg. But then we are only one floor up.

The other day, I was hanging over the edge looking down at all the pegs previous tenants had dropped, and I noticed a whole bunch of little round tables stored pretty well under our balcony. The whole area is part of the Dilko (the school we work for) courtyard. We had been wondering about getting a little table to put in our kitchen ... Unfortunately, to get to over there to our office we have to go out of our apartment, down the street and around the corner and then back into the office - the gate from the courtyard to our apartment door is locked and protected by shiny new razorwire.

So Peter tied a rope to our balcony, walked down the street and into the office and tied the other end to a table, and then he came back home and hauled it up onto our balcony.

Unfortunately, the first one he hauled up was broken - and he didn't see it until we had it up here. So then he had to lower it back down, disturbing the chap on the floor below who wanted to know what was bumping on his wall. Then he had to go back over to the office courtyard and select another one - which he did expertly this time!

Trap Door

Stay away from that trapdoor!

The bathroom in our apartment is a little worse for wear. The ceiling paint is peeling off and regularly falls on us in great white flakes, and between the flaking paint are areas of skungey mould.

As our parents told us, this is what happens when you don't use the exhaust fan in the bathroom!

But this bathroom has no fan - only a little trapdoor high up in the corner.


There are no outside walls in this room, so where on earth does the little door lead?

With great trepidation we prised it open - obviously previous tenants had resisted the urge to get curious.

Well, its a duck! Or maybe a duct.

open duck

And along with dust and the like, its full of pipes and old newspaper.

Not really so scary after all. 'They' are talking about putting an actual exhaust fan into the opening - seems like a better idea.

09 October 2006

Starting Work

We were promised a week of 'orientation' - at least it gave us a chance to get our apartment more liveable. But this weekend it was time to start work. Whew! We worked hard!

Our classes run in three sessions: a morning session, an afternoon session, and an evening session. Each morning or afternoon session is four hours straight. Oh, that's not too bad, I can do four hours ...but we had morning and afternoon, with a forty-minute lunch break. Eight hours of teaching on my first day.

The students don't much like the four-hour-stint ... but when we ask why its not changed, we are told this is the "Turkish Way" of doing things.

So after a wearying weekend, Peter is straight back into it this morning, with (four-hour) morning sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In his tiredness, he was trying to clean his glasses with a little pink microfibre cloth. When that didn't do a good enough job, he went into the kitchen to try rinsing them off. Then he went back to the bedroom to try the cloth again, but it was gone! He got into a bit of a flap and had me running around with him from room to room looking for the mysterious vanishing cloth. Finally I stopped to have a good look at him, and sure enough, perched neatly on his shoulder on his black shirt was a little pink cloth, right where he had put it so he wouldn't lose it ... looked pretty cool, I thought!

There is some confusion about my weekday lessons. I am supposed to be having an evening class - two or three-hour sessions - Monday to Thursday, but it doesn't start yet, and no one seems sure when it will. The Director of Studies says probably Thursday. Another 'authority' assures me it won't be til the end of October.

In the meantime, I am laying low. After staying out of Peter's way while he was getting ready for work (other than helping to find the pink cloth), I gladly climbed into the two-step yellow tub for a leisurely shower. I had just got thoroughly wet when I heard some sort of alarm, or siren, a whirring, humming sound, or... and there seemed to be a bunch of people cheering, saying "Oooohh!" Then I remembered. I had set my cheap'n'nasty Nokia phone ring-tone to "Surprise", and it was sitting on top of the washing machine where its vibration sound echoed into quite an alarming sound.

I dragged myself out of the shower, dried a little and answered the phone - holding my breath hoping it wasn't the Director of Studies with a new class for me. It was (poor) Peter. He didn't know what classroom he was in, and the Teacher's Assistant wasn't in the teachers' office nor was the information on the white board where it should be. However, the information was on our computer if I could just tippy-toe out to the loungeroom and look for him.

Could be worse, could be me over there teaching this morning.

07 October 2006

Bed Bungles and Sheet Shenanigans

I was in a state of thorough exhaustion. Our flat was full of friendly welcomers and well-wishers, but I snuck away from the crowd in search of a potential sleeping spot.

The big bedroom had a single bed mattress on the floor by the wall and a very large pink washing bowl in the middle of the floor. The smaller room had a large (queen or maybe king-size) dark-wood bed-frame - that is, a head-board, foot-board and side-rails. Sitting well inside this - leaving a large space at each side - was a much smaller (double-bed size) grotty old (stained and torn) mattress with the shape of the springs showing clearly through the fabric.

I stepped over the side-rail, and - avoiding the worst stain - lay tentatively on the mattress, wondering if I was tired enough to sleep even here.

I lifted the edge of the mattress to check on the actual bed. It was a few inches smaller than the mattress, and had metal struts, and four metal legs designed to fold up (I use the word 'design' fairly loosely here) for storage - but with a tendancy to fold at other times too. The 'feet' had long since lost their little rubber floor-protecting shoes, and these had been replaced with tatty-looking plastic bags wrapped and taped on. But the worst part was the edge where the previous occupant had obviously repeatedly sat to tie his shoes, and the metal was bent and cracked.

A thoughtful person had provided us with bright, fresh, brand-new pillows, sheet, pillow-cases, doona, and doona cover - it would have been nice to have had a chance to wash the size out of the linens before sleeping on them, but that couldn't be helped.

The first night Peter slept quite well on the downhill side - it was a little like a hammock. But I fared less well on the uphill slope, and at 2.30am when the jet-lag struck I gave up trying.

The second night we found a big pile of old magazines in a cupboard, and used a stack of these to even up the broken strut. Now with a horizontal bed I had a chance to get over the jet-lag.

Nearly a week later

we were provided with a 'new' mattress, no stains, almost perfect faric, no springs showing through, and much bigger size.

Of course, no bed yet. The new mattress is perched on the old metal bed, magazines and all.

The new mattress arrived late in the day, and of course the sheet would not fit (no tuck in). I just had to lay it across the bed and we tried to lie fairly still so as not to rumple it too much during the night.

The next day we visited the

Sheet Shop.

With barely enough Turkish language to say 'hello', it was back to charades to try to buy a new sheet from one of the tiny manchester shops just around the corner. But the shop-owner was an excitable little fellow who had maybe done this before. Once he realised we understood nothing he started prancing around, waving his arms in demonstration and pulling samples off his floor-to-ceiling shelves.

We had some useful measurement numbers on a scrap of paper, and soon we had just what we wanted, a fitted sheet of exactly the right size and the same design as the previous flat sheet that had been supplied. However, when we discovered a sheet set would cost us only 14 YTL (about AU$12) we decided to buy two. The little man was delighted, and once again became quite excitable, offering us a little blue hand towel as well. It wasn't free, he wanted to give it to us for 2 YTL. I don't know, maybe he just didn't have change. We gave in and bought the towel as well - you can never have too many towels.

04 October 2006

Our Little Street

The streets are narrow and winding. We live in a street with lots of pet shops. And fresh fish markets (mmm!).

turkey street

Most of the streets seem to be one-way, with the little cement mushrooms, or in other places n-shaped poles, protecting the pavement from the cars.

So here we are looking down the street, and just on our right, next to the "Siesta" place turkey street2

is a tiny alley to the main door of our apartment.

flat alley

Yep, down there in the gloom under the trees just past the drain pipe.

Once you go in, there is a winding stair-case - seems to be the norm around here - and we are on the first floor.


You might notice the railing/bannister where Peter is resting his hand is pretty much vertical at that point ... wouldn't want to be sliding down the bannister in this place!

The Baker

There are lots and lots of wonderful little shops along these narrow streets. Right next to us, next to the hairdresser's and opposite the pet shop, is one of many little baker's shops.


Gotta love it.

Colours of the morning

We were sitting on our little balcony having breakfast, and the morning sun was shining on the school building opposite us.

Dilko bakirkoy 8am from our balcony

Amazing, ay?

02 October 2006

Phones and other foibles

Turkey apparently welcomes with open arms anyone who has money for the visa fee, and it generally seems much more open and easy-going than China in that sense.

Then someone mentioned to us that the government likes to use (when necessary) mobile phones as listening in and positioning devices, just to keep an eye on things.

Then we said we wanted to buy SIM cards for our mobile phones. Our new (expat) friends looked worried - "Did you buy those phones in Turkey?" they asked, "because otherwise you won't be able to use them."

We were puzzled because we could see the same phones as ours available in the shops. Its not about the technology, obviously.

Everyone assures us that our phones will be blocked - not the SIM, the phone - after a short while. They said at one time there were a number of staff members carrying their SIM cards around asking to borrow other peoples' phones to make calls.

So we bought SIM cards anyway, thought we may as well start there - phones are a bit expensive here, and our phones are quite nice ones. We put in the cards and tried to phone each other - no luck. Someone else did manage to phone Peter - maybe we can receive but not make calls...

In the end we went out and bought a couple of cheap, bottom-of-range Nokias (still about $100 each) and inserted our SIMs.

Still no luck!

We started looking at other people's phone numbers, and realised they all seemed to have an extra digit to ours, a '0' at the beginning! Oops.

So I've put my SIM back in my friendly familar little Samsung flip-phone, and (with the numbers correct) it works fine.

Not that that is necessarily "it" - yet. The others who had their phones blocked said it happened after a couple of weeks. So we will wait and see - I may yet still have to go back to using the Nokia brick.

01 October 2006

Watching the West Coast Eagles win

Poor Peter! He couldn't believe it when he realised he had booked our tickets to leave Oz before the footie grand final, and with the Eagles (and Dockers at that stage) having a good chance!

turkey flat 013

He managed to pick up radio streaming, and game results, on the laptop.

Pretty exciting stuff in the end.

Turkey Flat

Turkish bread is flat (and yummy), and a 'flat' is what they (English speakers) call an apartment here.

So, here is our Turkey flat:

The best part is the lovely spacious living room.

turkey flat living room

At the end of the room is a delightful little balcony - a great place for meals as well as the all-important washing line.

turkey flat 016

The buildings visible from the balcony are the school where we work, and the foliage in between is a pomegranate tree, olive tree, couple of fig trees ... all that cool Mediterranean stuff!

The rest of the flat is a little more on the funky side from an Oz point of view.

The kitchen is a weird shape, impossible to get a decent pic of.

turkey flat 027

Its bright and pleasant, and the bench and draining board seem to be marble. The stove presents me with some problems as the actual stove-top is about armpit-height for me, so you can imagine what a nightmare stirring a pot of bolognaise would be ...

Then there is the bathroom. There is a "squat" toilet. AAAAAaaaahhhh!!

turkey flat 003

Once we got over the shock of that we realised it is only being used as a storage room because there is a SECOND toilet.

turkey flat 001

Its not immediately obvious, but once you sit there with one elbow resting on the sink and one knee jammed against the bath, you realise they really have tucked it away in the corner! (And it does have one of those useful little 'bidet' squirter things that are part of the whole Turkish toilet scene... )

Then, of course, there is Turkish bath - designed for sitting in.

turkey flat 002

Nice idea, I'm sure, but I am going to have to get over (and get rid of) the stuff that has collected from the washing machine outlet running into there before I can comfortably sit. For an Oz-style stand up shower its hard to decide between standing hard up against the wall in the tiny lower section, or stepping up onto the slippery seat part. There is definitely an art to using this thing.

The bedrooms (two of them) are particularly un-spectacular, mostly because the furniture is old and past its use-by.

Its going to be fun. Once we get over this jet-lag.

On our first morning we got up at 2.30am - well, it was 7.30am back "home".

This morning, our second in Turkey, I got up at 4.30 ... doing better! Peter did too, but he's gone back to sleep, clever lad. But then he is sleeping on the downhill side of our (a bit broken!) bed. I think tonight it will have to be either the mattress on the floor, or open out the sofa in the lounge room.

Or maybe I'll just be tired enough to fall asleep standing up.