Thursday, 28 September 2006


I heard a bit of a kerfuffle outside my flat last night. So like any self-respecting neighbour, I switched off the lights and started twitching the curtains.

Rumour is, the guy next door had decided to remove the bloke downstairs' solar panel from the roof. Why just remove someone's solar panel? What, they wont notice? A similar thing happened when my father arrived for his annual holiday out here to find that his television had stopped working. Turns out the bloke downstairs got onto the roof and unplugged my father's cables from the satellite and stuck his own in. Bargain!

Well anyway, I heard people screaming and shouting outside the window and the next thing I know, the police arrived and carted the blokes off as a knife had been pulled. Bonkers. These are 60+ old men street fighting. Mind you, the wives carried on after the husbands had been nicked.

But this is Turkey, and Turkey is a little rougher round the edges than the life I was used to back in Blighty. This had been proved one day when my cousin arrived at my doorstep looking a little angry about something. To cut a long story short, in a bout of road rage, someone had called him a cunt in front of his wife and child. This is bad form. Calling someone a cunt is generally bad form but in front of the family is plain unacceptable. My cousin had asked around and found out where the bloke worked and pursued it. "Billy," he said "be careful here. You can't just call someone a cunt and not expect them to follow it up".

So here he was sitting on my balcony, waiting for a call from the guy. He explained the procedure to me. "I go to see him. I then call him a cunt to his face. If he accepts that, we're even. If not, we fight." Now remember that this is an armed nation. Guns are around. It's not unusual. More than guns though, I've learned about something that has captured my curiosity. All Turks have the ability, though most don't know how. Someone unique to Turks that was once feared across the whole world. It's a martial art form that seems to be dead but can occasionally been seen to be used by masters. My step brother told me a story:

"A close friend was sitting in a doner kebab restaurant when 3 young men came in and started taunting the chef. Things were getting out of hand and it looked like the old man was in trouble ...when suddenly ...Bang! Bang! Bang! The three men hit the dust and scrambled away."

What happened to the young men? They messed with a master of the 'Osmanli Tokati' (The Ottoman Slap). When used correctly, the Ottoman Slap can knock a grown man straight down with one simple move. There are rumours as to how it's done, and my mission is to learn more. Some say it's the way the blow is delivered to the ear that sends the victim spiralling down as their sense flies out their other ear.

If you want to see an Osmanli Tokati in action, I have been told the best way is to head to the centre of town and to find the nearest man and insult his mother. You will see the start of the slap, you might not catch the end. Insulting a person's mother is apparently the worst possible thing in Turkey (even worse than questioning someones sexuality, and that's saying something). I'm sure I'll talk about swearing another time, as it deserves a whole post in itself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and wax on, wax off.

Monday, 25 September 2006


Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan (or Ramazan as it's known here). I thought I'd get involved in my quest to become a fully qualified Turk.

The period of Ramazan starts with 30 days of fasting. Now my knowledge of this whole festival is almost nothing so I wont even attempt to speak about the ins and outs of it. All I know is that at 4am yesterday morning I was called for breakfast (seems strange to use that word as it should really be startfast). I woke and put on my glasses. I guess I must have fallen asleep again because next time I looked at my watch it was 5am and dangerously near to the start of the fasting which kicks off with a canon and the extinguishing of the mosque minaret lights at 5:30am.

I hot footed it down to my father's flat and passed a number of people along the way, in the dark, all rushing around to get ready for the hellish day ahead. The local policeman was taking out his rubbish from his little hut and said something to me and laughed as he saw me tripping over my slippers in an attempt to get eating as quickly as possible. I have no idea what he said but I replied "yes, that's absolutely right". Happy not to feel a bullet in my back, I continued up the stairs of my dad's block.

When I arrived, they had just finished putting the breakfast things away, but were so pleased that I was attempting to fast for the first time, they happily re-laid the table. And so, the feeding frenzy began. I was shovelling food into my mouth like a thing possessed. As the time ticked away, I had to find a efficient eating strategy. I discovered that black olives are quicker to de-stone in the mouth than green for example.

Before long the lights of the mosques went out and then ...silence. What happened to the cannon? I was all excited about that. Apparently non-fasters had complained about a cannon being fired in the early hours of the morning and the council decided to only fire the cannon the evening at the end of the day's fast.

So all was still and I headed back to bed.

I woke starving hungry at about 11am. I think that knowing you're not allowed to eat makes you hungry. Normally I wouldn't be hungry after such a large breakfast. But I pottered around the flat and tried to think of things to do to take my mind off the subject of food. By the way, there are other rules to fasting:

  1. You are not allowed to eat
  2. You are not allowed to drink
  3. You are not allowed to kiss
  4. You are not allowed to have sex
  5. You are not allowed to have bad thoughts about anyone
  6. You are not allowed to swear

There are probably other things but this was enough for me.

My dad called at about 2pm and suggested we go into to town to take our mind off things and get some errands done. I had to take a fake watch back to a shop as it had broken (stop laughing) and I so I decided to go along.

On trying to return the watch, the salesman told me that I had shaken the watch too rigorously and that's why it had broken. Now, note to all out there; don't say something stupid like this to a man who is fasting. It was like I had been taken over by another animal. I launched an attack at the man that even surprised my father. The result was, however, a repaired watch and two broken vows.

The time then moved along pretty quickly and soon we were gathered at the dinner table waiting for the cannon to fire signifying the end of the fasting period. With a loud boom (which has actually just happened here again today and scared the bejesus out of me) we began eating. Traditionally, you break your fast with a date (not the romantic kind as that wouldn't be a good idea). So I tucked into the best tasting date I had ever eaten. We then ate in silence as the sound of cutlery clattering was too loud anyway.

Apparently I have to do another fast in a couple of weeks time and another at the end of the 30 days. I'm allowed to do this as they go easy on first-timers. I'm not sure if I will do it again. I'm pleased I did it but I found that it made me even less productive than usual as the sugar levels drop.

Now please excuse me as I have to go to dinner.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Wet wipes

I called the plumber over the other day to fix a few things. While he was here I asked him to try and figure out why the toilet seat wouldn't stay up. Any male readers out there will know just how annoying this is. Trying to urinate with one hand whilst holding the seat up with the other less being circumcised by it can get tiresome.

He soon got to the root of the problem; a small copper tube sticking out the back of the toilet pointing into the bowl. Now I'd seen these in pretty much every toilet in Turkey and had no real idea what it was for. I asked the plumber to remove this pipe and so solve the problem. "Don't you use this???" he asked in a shocked tone. "Nope, never. We don't have these in England" I replied. "Offffff, how disgusting" he remarked as he twisted the pipe off.

Further enquiries provided me with my latest lesson in being a qualified Turk. Basically, post-defecation, one opens the tap and allows water to flow across the nipsy and is then used to wash ones backside before finally using toilet paper to simply dry.

I was intrigued and vowed to give it a try. Wow, what a difference a pipe makes. It's so easy and you feel so fresh. I can understand that it might not be such a nice experience in cold, wet England but over here a blast of cold water on the balloon knot sets you up for the day.

I now need to call the plumber back to reinstall the thing so I can enjoy the experience from either toilet.

My life is changed forever. Although I'm a little worried that I'll never be able to revert to the dry wipe.

Friday, 8 September 2006

Another Turkish brand that wouldn't do so well in the UK

You have to question the cleanliness of the clothes sold in this Izmir store.

Run Fezboy, Run!

Last month I signed up to RunLondon (the Nike 10K in London). I've run it for the past 3 years and I find it a good excuse to get out and get some exercise.

This year has brought a lot of upheaval in my life and so getting back into the routine of running has been the last thing on my mind. Well, this morning I woke up and realised that it's exactly one week until the event so I could postpone it no longer.

I was up at 8am and put on my running shoes. In Turkey, you have to run in the morning as the day's heat lasts well into the evening. This morning was still and fresh and so I headed down the steps to the sea front and slowly began to pick up speed.

OK, so I only ran for about 20 mins and walked the rest but it was a good start that gave me an instant change of mood and outlook. The is no other exercise quite like running for giving you a chance to think and clear your head.

The other advantage of running first thing in the morning is to see Kusadasi as the town gets ready for the day. The road sweepers are out, the leather shops are wheeling out the horrendous offerings and the taxi drivers are having their morning, cigarette induced, hockle. life is sweet.

Tonight we are having the first full family Reunion and for this a medium sized animal will pay the ultimate price and be lowered into a pit over a bowl of cracked wheat. Looks like I'm going to need another run tomorrow.

Until then...


Thursday, 7 September 2006

Where've you been len?

I know, I know, you've been wondering where I've been. Well let me tell you a boring little Arlo Guthrie-esque story about Turkish bureaucracy. It all started a few weeks ago when my mobile phone refused to get reception...

I went to the Turkcell (one of the major Turkish mobile providers) shop to see whether they knew what might be going on with my reception. "Your phones been blocked, you'll have to buy a new one. Take a look at the Nokia 1100..." I thought this was strange and so I decided to explore a little further. Sure enough, my nan's Turkmenistani carer told me that after 3 months of being in the country, her phone had also been blocked too.

As I explored further it became clear that the problem was due to the Turkish Telecommunication Department, wanting to control the import of handsets, is blocking foreign mobiles using Turkish SIM cards. There is an official route to getting the phones unlocked and I decided to pursue this.

In the meantime, I went back the UK for a short break and brought back the receipts for both phones as this was important (apparently). On arriving in Izmir airport I asked if we could go to the customs office to register the phones. It was closed. So we headed back to Kusadasi.

The next day I went to the customs office here in Kusadasi. Arriving at the customs office I was met with a man waving me out again telling me that this was old news and that they weren't doing this anymore. I was then told by someone else that I needed to go to the Telecommunications head office in Izmir. So off I trotted.

I got the ferry across the bay of Izmir and made a beeline for the Telecom HQ. "I'm sorry, they have all gone for lunch". I decided to use the time to go to the post office to pay a bill that had come from Superonline (my ISP here in Turkey). The bill had arrived at my uncles hotel instead of my home, which was odd, but seeing as I'd never received mail to my home I didn't think much about it. The bill was overdue as the mail had arrived about a month late but I decided to get it paid ASAP.

Anyway, back to the Telecom HQ. I spoke to the security guard, a young woman, who was helping me go through the form and make sure I had everything I needed. My Turkish is pretty bad and there were a lot of "I'm sorry, I don't understand"'s on my part. In the end the security guard must have gotten sick of me and stepped in to tell me to sod off until the others come back from lunch. I went for lunch myself.

I sat in the cafe, eating my stuffed pepper, reading the form from the Telecom HQ. Picking out the word 'Fotokopi' a few times I decided to go and photocopy everything I was carrying. After lunch I headed back to the HQ. The kind female security guard went through all my paperwork and said that everything was in order to proceed upstairs. "Wait...." she said, looking again at the phone receipts. "You need to get these stamped by customs". My heart sank.

Somewhat disheartened and frankly fucked off by the whole deal, I headed to the airport to pick up my father who was flying that day. Whilst there I went back to the customs office ...and they were open. I saw the man in charge of stamping phone receipts. He looked at the receipt, raised his stamp and with it hovering above the paper he turned to me and asked "wait, did you arrive today?".

"No, two days ago" I replied.

"Sorry, you have to stamp this the day you arrive". Suppressing every urge in my being to vault the counter and stamp the fucker to death, I did the British thing and walked away fuming. In fact I was so angry I had to stop and offload my story to the security guard on the way out. He looked bemused.

Back to the airport to pick up my arriving father. "Hey dad, great to see you, how are you? Good trip? By the way, can you go back into the arrivals lounge and get this piece of paper stamped? Thanks dad." With that, my poor exhausted, slightly drunk (he hates flying) father had to prise the doors of the arrivals hall open while the police weren't looking and get back in to the arriving passenger's customs office. After 5 minutes he returned with a fully stamped receipt.

We didn't celebrate too long as I explained what was still left to do; going back to Izmir to the Telecom HQ, then to Turkcell to register the phone, then at least a 3 month wait while the form goes to Ankara etc etc. The Nokia 1100 was looking more and more attractive by the day.

We stayed in Izmir that night and I explain the story of the phone and the customs and the multiple suicide attempts along the way and my dad seemed unsurprised. "This is Turkey Billy. no one knows what you really have to do, they just want you out of their hair as soon as possible".

The next day we decided to go to Izmir centre to do some shopping. Passing a small phone shop (not really a shop as a hole in the wall with a young girl up to her elbows in Nokias). Dad turned to me "give me your phone" and disappeared into the shop. "We'll come back in an hour".

An hour later we returned, handed the girl 20YTL (about £8) and I was presented with my phone, unblocked and fully operational. "This is the Turkish way" my father told me. I guess I still have a lot to learn.

So what has this got to do with my absence from this blog? Well let me tell you about my run in with Superonline...

The day I arrived back in Kusadasi I discovered that my internet connection had been cut. I phoned Superonline to try to get to the bottom of the problem. Apparently I hadn't been paying my bills and they eventually cut my connection. "But I've not received any bills except the one which I paid immediately" I explained. It turns out that they had sent me a number of bills but none had arrived to my house. I started the long process of re-subscription with the ISP to get back online.

In the meantime I tried to get to the bottom of my mail problems. A couple of months before I had got a call from my nan to say that the postman was downstairs with a parcel for me. I hurried down to my nan to find her sitting drinking tea with said postman. "Good to meet you Billy, my name is Ali. I don't know where your house is so I'll just bring you mail to your nan". Not having the appropriate Turkish to argue, I agreed.

As the weeks and months have passed my mail was not arriving to my nan either and occasionally turning up to my uncle's hotel. I asked my dad to help me find out what was happening so we headed to the post office We met with the head of the post office and welcomed her on her first day on the job. Bugger.

We were told to come back at 4pm when Ali would be here and we could explain to him where we lived. In the meantime, my uncle called through to the post office and threw his weight around but nothing changed. To try and cut this long long story short, these were the problems:
  1. My street name I had been given, Susam Sokak - meaning Sesame Street, doesn't actually exist. So any mail coming through to my address was being thrown around until someone decided to send it to an address where the recipient has the same surname. Thank god my surname is fairly well known in Kusadasi.
  2. The postman can't be bothered to walk up the stairs to my house despite knowing where I live. "He's right, you know. Would you want to walk up those stairs?" My dad asked me. "I would if it was my fucking job" I felt obliged to respond.
  3. The postman wont come to my house because "there's a dog there". There isn't.
So my home officially has no address as my street has no name. I have been forced to now give my nan's address in the future and to change everything at the bank etc etc. One slight problem... no one knows my nan's address either. Specifically, no one knows the number of the house as it changes every time they build a in the street (which happens often in this fast growing town). It was 60, then it was 62. The water company thinks it's 63. My dad thinks it's 65 and so on.

So there you go. My internet returned today after approximately 50 phone calls. I still have no address. I've just sent the plumber down the road to get me a post box to fix to my nan's house. Don't ask why I've sent the plumber unless you want another story.

Now, this story has been cut down so I wont crash the internet but believe me when I say that this process has been un-fucking-believable. Really really amazing. So desperately ridiculous that I even questioned my staying in the country. I guess I have to relax a little and play by the rules. I'm learning still.

I maintain that the person who takes control of Turkish bureaucracy and official rubbishness will be seen as the next Ataturk.

As they say here, "offf bey, offf!"