Friday, 29 December 2006

Merry Christmas everyone!

OK, so I slipped a few days but, hey, it's Christmas and I'm allowed to.

The latest news is that I have returned to the UK to spend Christmas with my family. Having spent a couple of days in Istanbul, I caught the easyJet flight back into Luton to the welcome of a pea souper. The pilot had to radio in to check that we were OK to land and thankfully we were.

Being back is a little strange. I haven't been back since August and I'm not sure whether I've missed the UK or not. I've missed my family obviously but I'm not sure whether I've missed England and Englishness.

It seems, as I walk around my home town of Kingston, that consumerism is a little too much for me to handle now. The fighting for Christmas presents and stories of people queuing outside Selfridges from 5am to get the bargains in the sales is a little twisted. That's not to say that I'm not going to stuff my suitcase with sales bargains before I fly back to the safety of my balcony.

Well I must go and cram some more of the food I've missed over the past 4 months down my neck...

Sunday, 17 December 2006


Well it seems to be working. Here I am obeying my diary and writing the next entry.

I had some good news this week. I finally found a good lead in my quest to learn Turkish.

It all started when some buttons fell off my coat and I needed to go find a seamstress. As with everything in Turkey, you don't just walk in to any old place. You need to ask the family and get recommendations. So having identified the family approved seamstress, I set off with anything and everything that was missing a button or coming loose.

I walked down the dark alley between the bakers and the Levi shop and found a small room with sewing machines. There was no one to be seen. "Hello? Hello?" I called but nothing. So I tried calling in Turkish. "Alo? Alo?". Still nothing.

As I turned to leave, a little boy came running up to me. The kid couldn't have been more than 3 or 4. "Can I help you?" he said confidently?

"Hello little man, is there no one around today?" I patronised.

"Yes, I'm looking after the place. What do you need doing?" he replied.

"Erm," I stumbled as the confusion grabbed my by the tongue "I've got some missing buttons and a little sewing needing doing".

"OK fine, do you still have the buttons?"

This was beginning to freak me out a little. Maybe he was a midget? But he was playing out the front with his friends when I came in, so he can't be. Weird. "Yes, I've got the buttons"

"Come back in 10 minutes and my mum will be here". He said finally to my relief. An English kid of his age would be licking windows and sitting in his own mess, but this kid was lining up business like a 40 year old.

Anyway, to cut this long story down a bit, the mother did turn up later on and I got everything sewn up (hurrah!) for about 30p. While sitting and sewing, she was telling me about her older son and how good his English was etc. I started to complain about the lack of Turkish language schools in Kusadasi when she replied "but there is. Just go to the Halk Eyetim". Now I still don't really know what the Halk Eyetim is but I went there.

Sure enough, all I need to do is get permission from the Vali (mayor-type figure) for the state of Aydin and I'll be on my way. It seems that I'm going to be learning Turkish along side other Turks. This is where my confusion lies at the moment. Why would I be learning along side other Turks? Why can't Turks speak Turkish? "Because it's the Halk Eyetim" is the reply I always get. From what I can gather the Halk Eyetim is the place where the poor and uneducated go to learn to read and write. I told them that I want to learn to speak as well and was told that I would.

I asked the Manager of the Halk Eyetim how much the course was. I true 'Two Ronnies' he replied "45 days". He's got his work cut out with me.

So there you have it. In the new year I will be starting my Turkish lessons. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be quite a life changing experience to talk to my grandmother fluently.

Until next week...

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Autumn or Winter?

Inevitably, writing this blog was overlooked as I got busy living. Adding a new post isn't an indication that I've stopped living, just that I'm trying to get some order to my existence and I've found a slot to keep this bad boy fresh. So the new plan is this:

6am-7am : Reading (currently Richard Branson's autobiography 'Losing my Virginity')
7am-8am : Personal Development (currently working on my handwriting which includes re-learning how to hold a pen. Not the easiest task at 31)
8am-9am : Exercise (I run every other day down to the Marti Hotel in Kadinlar Denizi and back. This is about 30 minutes. When I get back I start the weights and sit-ups etc)
9am-10am : Shit, shower, shave and breakfast.
10am-? : Working

But on Sunday's I've booked a slot for writing this blog. Let's see how long it lasts.

I figured that if I carry on waking at midday and generally milling about, I'm not going to get far in life. It could also be a combination of reading 'Getting things done' by David Allen (a fantastic book giving to me by my great friend Sam) and the wise words of Mr Branson. I find the Branson book inspiring but at the back of my mind I'm aware that he was a public school boy, born with a bank account at Coutts & Co. Oh well, between him and Alan Sugar, I'm sure there's room for me.

So apologies for the absence. What has changed since I last posted? The most noticeable thing was the abandonment of Kusadasi on the 1st November. I walked down into town that morning and it was like something out of the film '28 Days Later'. The shops were closed, the cars gone. There were no salesman muttering random English quips at me. Kusadasi had been deserted. Only the occasional ship comes to port now. So rarely that I forget the last time. Only then will you see a few shops opening and the vultures of taxi drivers and perfume sellers hovering around the port entrance. Apart from that, Kusadasi is resting for moment until the preparation for 2007 begins.

I saw the season start and end this year. By all accounts it was one of the worst seasons on record. A friend tells me that last year their hotel had nearly 7,000 room nights (how they measure success in the hotel business apparently), this year it was nearer 1,000. The prediction for next year is a lot worse. There are going to be lots of casualties in the Tourist industry.

I feel sad when I hear such things. Turkey has so much to offer but it's not communicated to potential holiday makers and those that actually come don't get a chance to see the right things. The complaint here is that as the prices of flights and holidays has gone down, so has the quality of tourist. It's very un-British to talk like this but the Turks are a little more honest. Years ago, Turkey was an unusual destination, something exotic. Now it's a cheap and cheerful alternative to Spain. Consider the work of a Turkish Carpet salesman trying and sell carpets worth thousands of pounds (and deservedly priced) to a working class family from England who are more used to car boot sales and Poundland. I don't want to sound like a snob, I'm just trying to highlight the change in Tourism and how it effects the local economy.

Even more hard work are the tourists coming from the Balkan region who are in real financial hardship. I hear stories of filling their pockets with salami from the breakfast buffet and cooking it on stoves in hotel rooms to avoid paying for lunch and dinner.

The hotel industry in Kusadasi is in a bad way. With 90% of the town taken up with hotels, the supply far outweighs the demand. The problem with the Turkish style of business is that if someone sees someone doing something successfully, the entire town will jump on the band wagon. So when hotels started to do well here, the world and his wife opened their own hotels. Unfortunately Kusadasi doesn't have the same building restrictions of prettier towns like Bodrum so every hotel adds to the concrete jungle. Before you know it, you have created a monster that is simply not appealing to tourists anymore.

OK enough already. I'm going to get off my high horse and tell you about something else I learned over the past months... Turkish coffee. Making a good Turkish coffee is a skill few people have. I am still training but I'm about 2nd dan now. The holy grail of Turkish coffee is the 'kopruk' or bubbles. Everyone wants bubbles on their coffee. The bubbles are so appealing with their technicolour sheen. So, anyway, how do you make a good Turkish coffee?

1. Start with your Turkish coffee pot (what, you haven't got one? Have a cup of tea then).

2. Add one level teaspoon of Turkish coffee for each cup. You can get Turkish coffee from most supermarkets in the UK, but if you want the best, go to the 'Little Hunter' in Izmir ;)

3. Use the coffee cups to measure the water needed. One cup per cup obviously.

4. Turkish coffee is drunk 'sade' (plain), 'orta' (medium sweet) or 'sekerli' (sweet). Plain has no sugar. For medium, add one cube of sugar and sweet add two per cup.

5. Put the coffee on a medium/low heat and don't stir. This is the secret to a bubble fest. Don't stir a thing. Just wait.

6. Be careful. I took my eyes off the pot for a moment while I sneezed and this was the result. Watch the bastard thing.

7. There you have it. A perfect Turkish coffee. Granted the bubbles should be in the cup and not on the worktop but that comes with my 3rd dan.

According to my schedule, I should be having my haircut. So, until next time...