Tag Archives: culture

Winter is Coming

Our preparations for winter are falling into place, and given the recent and rather sudden drop in temperature just in time.

We got a local electrician to sort our TV.  They left us their contact details some months ago when they came to install our Digiturk (TV) system.  Thanks to their extremely efficient and reasonably priced service the dish now has a double cable, one to the front and one to the back.  All we need to do is disconnect, move, and reconnect the digiturk box depending on where we want to watch TV.  Now, when winter arrives we can sit snugly in the front house and have loads of channels, most of which we never watch.  Seems sensible…  CSI every evening if we want….  We also have loads of DVD’s to help the cold nights pass.  We picked up the Borgias series 2 and Game of Thrones series 1 on our trip to the UK, eye candy for the long dark nights.

We needed to get a plumber to do a couple of tasks, a tap that did not work and a new cistern along with the parts that fit inside.  We made use of a contact from a friend, a plumber she said was good.  It turned out that we could not just replace the cistern, we would need a completely new toilet.  The work is now done, he was efficient and very good value.

We need to get antifreeze put into the solar water system.  A member of the family across the road from us works for a solar power installation company, so we’ll ask them to do it.  We’ll probably get charged much the same – it is not expensive, and at least the money will go locally.

We need to get a glazier to fit a new window pane.  A pane in a double glazing unit is cracked.  Again, an old friend should be able to help, she is married to someone who installs double glazing.  Not exactly the same but they will know someone who can fit new glass into a double glazing unit.

We have a little over metric tonne of firewood stored away.  Thanks to friends who helped us last winter we know where to get good quality firewood.  Our neighbours say we should get some coal because it is more economical, burns slower and hotter.  There seems to be mixed feelings about using coal, not everyone seems to think it is a good idea.  We shall look into this, see what options there are and how good the coal is.  We can order coal from the same people who deliver our calor gas and drinking water.  They recognise our phone number and know where we live.

There is a theme – Personal contacts.  Having a relationship with people who provide a service is very much how things are done here.  We are gradually building up our lists of contacts, builders, carpenter, electrician and so forth.  There has been a certain amount of trial and error, last year at first we initially bought wood which was not so good, we were very much new to it all and learning our way.  (Oddly those same guys bought wood round to us this year, having assumed we would buy it – we didn’t).  We still are learning our way but we are getting better at it and much less reliant on others to point us in the right direction.  Hopefully we will, someday, be in a position to help others as we have been helped ourselves.

Spectacular Service

I was wandering around Soke market with Hilary and a friend when a lens fell out of my glasses. Fortunately I managed to find the lens before it got walked on.  By feel I gathered that a screw had fallen out of the frame.  This is pretty serious because without glasses I cannot see very well, I can see fine at a distance but not close, in a crowded market everything was close.  To make matters worse we were about to go to a restaurant and we had no idea where a local optician might be found.

The restaurant we were going to was a fixed menu place so I knew what the food would be – not that I would be able to see it clearly.  Eating might be a little messy but I guessed I could probably cope.  Our friend explained to the waiter what had happened and immediately my glasses were rushed off to be repaired.  I was a bit anxious about this, I am quite dependent on my expensive high tech eyewear – shatterproof, polycarbonate, varifocal, antiglare, transition lenses mounted in flexon frame, all necessary in my view because I use them when riding the bike.

Less than 10 minutes later  and before the main course had arrived they were returned to me, not only was the lens fitted and the screws all tightened, the slight distortion in the frames had been corrected as well.  I was seriously impressed.  Not the usual sort of service from a waiter in a restaurant – would never happen in the UK.  Experiences like this are part of what is so amazing about living in Turkey.

Műzekart

A few months ago we tried on the offchance to get a Műzekart and were politely told by the staff at Selçuk museum that only Turkish Citizens were entitled to one.  More recently we heard this rule had changed and a friend of ours had managed to get one.  Currently there is no indication of this rule change on the Műzekart web site which still states that applications from non-Citizens will be refused.  More helpfully the website lists many of the places where a Műzekart can be used, it is not a complete list, and there are some exceptions which are clearly listed. All the exceptions are areas within sites where you have to pay extra in any case (e.g. the Harem at Topkapi and the Terraced Houses at Ephesus).

With this potential change of rules in mind we walked into the museum in Selçuk and asked, expecting to have to try to explain there is a new law which means that people with a residence permit and kimlik numbers are now entitled to one.  We were pleasantly surprised, not only were the staff aware of the new rules but knew exactly what needed to be provided.  We were asked for Kimlik Numbers and Residence Permits, and paid 30 lira each.  No photographs were required, the photos in our Residence Permits were scanned and used for the card.  There are no forms to fill out, everything instead entered onto computer.  Our local mobile number was taken and it was explained we may be called for security reasons, so we guess having a local phone number may be necessary.  The whole process took less than 5 minutes.

To summarise, what you need:-
Residence Permit
Kimlik Number
30 Lira
Contact telephone number

The cards are valid for one year and give free entry into virtually every museum and archaeological site in Turkey under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. For us, this represents a significant saving. We will be making a great deal of use of these.

Stuffed Marrow and a Family Gathering

A few days ago we were chatting with Oya, a Turkish friend of ours, about food.  We got onto the huge courgettes / marrows that are around right now.   She makes mucver with them, we suggested stuffing them.  She seemed dubious, and then gave us one.   This was not like an English marrow.  It was shaped like a bottle gourd, about 10 inches in diameter with a thinner ‘neck’.

The idea was we stuff it and take it back to her at her restaurant.  There was considerable debate over how to approach the project.  We considered taking off a ‘lid’, stuffing it and cooking it whole.  We considered halving it (through various axes) and debated whether to cook it open side down or open side up.  We ended up cutting off the ‘neck’ then halving it through the equator.   On investigation it was more like a huge courgette than a marrow, and very pithy in the middle.  We removed all the pith stuffed it with rice, nuts, chick peas, peppers, onion, sultanas,  pul biber and cinnamon a few other bits and some herbs and spices, poured some diluted salca over, and shoved it in the oven.   It took longer than expected to cook.

Due to being double booked with a dentist we took it back a day early.  It was an interesting experience, riding the Harley with a hot (glass) baking tray on Hilary’s knee.  Fortunately Oya was there – we thought she probably would be as we had discussed the double booking with her daughter the day before.   The family were phoned and, whilst Hilary was preparing the salad (failing to cut the lettuce small enough, due to unfamiliarity with the knife), numerous relatives  arrived.  Gözleme, menemen  and baked aubergine appeared, (all delicious, Oya and Mama are extremely good cooks) along with huge amounts of bread.   A large bottle of Fanta was provided and we all ate.  There were eight of us all together.  We got through half the marrow.  We were glad some was left as we had promised some to one of the local polis who is expecting to get fed tomorrow.

We stayed on for a while, chatting and drinking tea.  Came home with the empty tray, a load of ripe plums and some gözleme.

What children do in their holidays

Here in Turkey the school summer holidays run from the middle of June to the middle of September.  We do not, however, see much more of our neighbour children at this time than we do for the rest of the year.  Firstly, and sadly, a portion of our neighbours’ children are not sent to school.  Schooling is supposed to be compulsory but that is very difficult to enforce.  This problem is not confined to Turkey – there is parentally condoned truancy in England as well…

So, for the children who are sent to school, what is there to do in the holidays?  Well, here in Selçuk the Belediye run free youth camps with activities.  These are for older teenagers and young adults and seem to be very well subscribed.  What most children do, however, is help their parents.

We visited a Turkish friend who was helping out in her brother’s restaurant.  A young lad (a relative) was visiting and insisted on working as a waiter for the day.  He was doing well at it.  When our carpenter came round, he had a young lad (either his son or his assistant’s son) running back to the van for drill bits and holding things.  The man who fitted our new iron bars to the side window also had a young assistant.  Our boat trip was driven by a lad somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, under his father’s supervision…  He was quiet, polite and concentrating very hard on sailing the boat.  He took obvious pride in his own competence.  He seemed to be enjoying himself.  When we stopped off for afternoon swims, he was leaping into the water and squirting his father with a water pistol and generally acting like any child his age.

On the way back from our recent trip we noticed an advert in one of the petrol stations.  It was a picture of a man washing his car with his young son (maybe three or four years old) helping him.  The child was approaching the task with intense seriousness and concentration.  I found it hard to imagine an English child of that age pictured in a similar situation.

Child labour can be a terrible thing.  We think of sweat shops, of children forced to work hard under conditions that are often dangerous and unregulated.  We think of children who miss out entirely on their childhoods.  And this is, indeed a terrible thing.  But what we are seeing her is different in a number of ways.  These are children working alongside loving parents who watch out for them, who teach them.  These are children who want to learn, who want to be useful to their families, who have a real sense of responsibility.  And, when they are on a break, or when their working day is over, they play as noisily and as mischievously as children everywhere.

Here in Turkey we don’t hear children complaining that they are bored, demanding that their parents (or, very often, older siblings) find something to amuse them.  They take part in the life of their families and their community.  And, as long as they still have time to play, as long as they are not kept away from school, as long as they are not forced into working, this strikes us as not entirely a bad thing.

One Year On

Today, now, we have been living in Selçuk for one year.   It has been a very interesting and a very good year.  We have been fortunate; the local expat community (as it is) has been welcoming, polite and helpful.  Our neighbours are pleasant.  The officials we have dealt with have been polite and helpful, and largely forgiving of our limited but growing Turkish.  The house purchase and everything associated with it went smoothly and as per agreements.  We guess partly good fortune and partly doing our homework.

Some things we have learnt.
●  We have masses of free hot water in summer – when we don’t need or want it, and less for free when it is cold and wet.
●  Cheap firewood is just that.  Cheap.  It usually requires more chopping and is often damp.  The effort required to chop it in the cold damp of winter is really not worth it – unless part of some keep fit regime.
●  Wood stoves are awesome but the chimney needs to be regularly cleaned and a carbon monoxide alarm is a very good investment.  Don’t clean the chimney and the alarm will go off at the most inconvenient time possible.  Still – better than the alternative.
●  Handmade bespoke furniture from the local sanayi (industrial area) costs much the same as decent stuff from IKEA.  There is still IKEA for some things.  Get curtains made locally, they will be precisely the size wanted, extremely well made, and relatively inexpensive.  Koçtaş (B&Q) is good for tools, especially power tools, not kitchens, bathrooms etc.  For all else there is local hardware store.
●  Bureaucracy can be painfully slow – same as anywhere else in the world.  Don’t take it personally, it isn’t.  Most (if not all) officials want to be helpful, it is not their fault if you cannot understand what they are saying.  If taking on something complex research it first, get some idea of what is involved.  Consider taking someone who can translate.
●  It will come at 6pm, tomorrow morning, next Thursday….  Is akin to mañana.  It will arrive when it does – get on with your life.
●  Don’t throw it away – it can probably be mended.  If not, your neighbours might want it.  This applies to everything except clothes.  If you must throw it away, don’t worry about putting metal, plastic, glass or anything else into the bin.  It will get recycled.  This beats those dreaded colour coded bins and boxes.

We probably could add some more but we are off to celebrate our first year here.

Ramazan in Selçuk

We do not fast for Ramazan.  We are not sure how many of our neighbours are fasting.  Some of them most certainly are not but we guess that many of them are not.  It’s tough this time of year for those who are fasting, the daylight hours are long and hot and those who fast do not allow anything to pass their lips.  We know that the Ramazan fast is extremely important for devout Muslims, so we try to be a bit discrete when eating during hours of daylight.  Our back terrace is not precisely hidden, but it is secluded, people actually have to look in our direction in order to see us, so we do have breakfast there (long, long after the sun has risen).  We’ve been eating dinner pretty late anyway, it’s more pleasant to eat after the blasting heat of the day has passed.  So waiting for the Iftar hour is no hardship, and our roof, where we eat dinner for nearly half the year, is very overlooked.

The restaurants and bars in town are mostly open and doing a roaring trade.  Tourist numbers seem to have risen again, or maybe we’ve just been going into town when the tourists are about.  During Ramazan we go to bars and restaurants about as often as we do at other times.  The tea houses remain populated, men playing backgammon and okey, there are less tea glasses than during other months, but hardly none.   There are plenty of people eating, drinking and smoking on the beach, so we don’t worry about sipping our water or drinking an ice tea.  The burquini count is definitely down (but they are not entirely absent from the beaches).

We have heard the drummers most nights.  They come round at around 03:30 to wake people up in time to eat before dawn.  A week or so back they toured the district, collecting money.  We gave them a few lira which seems to have improved our standing in the neighbourhood.  It was wonderful to watch, as, like the pied piper they collected a huge crowd of children.

We love the Ramazan pide which become available this time of year.  These are breads, flat but pillowy, wonderfully chewy and spiced with sesame and nigella.  One thing that puzzles us – there is a huge premium set on getting your pide hot from the baker  – there are queues for hot pide from when they appear (soon after five most evenings) but, if you are fasting, you can’t eat it till sunset…  They smell so delicious that they must be very, very hard to resist.