Thursday 28 June 2007

Not a chance of making it in England

Racist? These take the biscuit!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Holy mother of fuck, Spidey!

Last night I was just surfing YouTube when I saw something in the corner of my eye strolling across the wall. Something not dissimilar in size to a young camel.

Sometimes living on the edge of a forest can bring unwelcome guests. This little beauty decided to escape the bonkers heatwave and chill out in my air conditioned lounge for a while.

Now I have a terrible fear of spiders. I tried to conquer it by going to a course provided by London Zoo in which we were treated to hypnosis and flooding techniques to help us to become friends with these 8 legged bastards.

At the end of the day I had managed the following:

Not bad, but I'm not actually scared of tarantulas. They don't really fall into the spider category in my book. They're more of a rodent. What really makes my skin scrawl are those big old house spiders you get in England. The ones you find sitting in the bath.

So imagine my joy when I saw this mofo perched in the corner of my room last night...

Now, being a vegetarian and all round animal lover, I didn't want to give it a shoeing but rather do what we were taught on the course and to put a glass over it and remove it safely. Unfortunately there wasn't a glass big enough for this beast. It was also situated in the corner of the ceiling, meaning that it was almost impossible to perform my practiced maneuver. So I sat and watched and waited.

After 15 minutes I decided to be proactive and use the broom to nudge it to a more reasonable location. Well, one centimetre from it's body, it sprinted across the wall and I lost my mind.

I took a baseball-like swing at it with the broom but it caused no obvious injury. After two swings and a thorough spraying with mosquito repellent, there was no change to this monster's determination to scare the crap out of me. But luckily, by this time, it was scuttling along the floor.

Got it! A we had a picture for posterity. The next task was to heave it over the balcony where I clearly heard a thud as it hit the ground two storeys below.

Turns out, this is a fantastically poisonous little critter. One I hope has no homing instinct. But I now sleep with a gun under my pillow.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Word up!

So what do you reckon these are all about? I saw them in the supermarket the other day and did a double take.

I'll give you a clue. They're to be worn after a certain ceremony. Something most little boys have here and something most people ask me about and try to convince me to have done. Not a fucking hope.

Yes, you've guessed it, they're to be worn after circumcision. Like a bizarre, crying Larry Blackmon the child dons these beauties to protect the newly shelled acorn. Then he's sat on a donkey and paraded through town. Personally I think a donkey ride would be the last thing on my mind if someone had just taken a knife to my Charlie.

Another dodgy brand

Monday 25 June 2007

Rude nan

I have to share something that made my laugh the other morning. My nan is 82 years old and lives in the next apartment. I go and visit her regularly though her memory loss means she doesn't believe that and chastises me for never visiting.

She has a live-in carer as she can no longer walk. A middle-aged woman from Turkmenistan called Suzanna with Turkish similar to mine but with a Russian accent.

A few days ago Suzanna's son came to visit her after almost 2 years of being apart. She asked him to bring a number of things from home that she's missed over the years.

To welcome him, I was invited to breakfast. After we had eaten, Suzanna grabs a can of something I can only compare to a thick, sweet condensed milk. She dips a spoon into the Turkmenistan gloop and proudly offer it to my nan to taste.

"We call this ........ Can I find this here?" Suzanna asks nan.

"Of course, we have everything in Turkey". A classic response from an aged Turk.

"Where can I find it?" Suzanna continued.

"In your mother's cunt" came the understated reply from the frail octogenarian. I dropped an olive.

Unaccompanied and unnacustomed in Customs

So after 5 years my Minolta camera finally gives up the ghost and decides it doesn't want to take pictures in sunshine anymore. Not much use to me living in a country that sees little else. So I began my search last year for a replacement.

I'm a research maniac and spent months looking for the right camera for the job. Finally I settled on a Canon Ixus 850IS. A small, handy piece of work that was raved about in all the forums I came across.

So the I embarked upon the next stage of the research process; where to buy and how much to pay. I found a great company called DigitalRev based in Hong Kong. They promise swift delivery and no Customs headaches... well, at least, to the UK.

The package arrived swiftly, but unfortunately not to me. Customs in Istanbul (the only gateway for cargo into Turkey) took a fancy to the package and informed DHL to write me a letter about it. DHL did indeed send me a letter but my Turkish isn't quite up to scratch yet. I called DHL and asked what I had to do.

They informed me that in order to get my hands on my camera I would have to clear Istanbul Customs then forward the package to Izmir Customs where I could then collect. Unfortunately no one could give me a clear answer on how much this would cost. After a host of other calls, pulling in contacts and friends who might have an answer, I soon realised that no one could give me a clear answer. Well, actually there was one clear unanimous answer "why the hell did you buy from overseas?"

I called DHL Kusadasi and a very nice lady invited me to go down and she would read the letter and tell me what I needed to do. That I did.

The answer? 130YTL (about £45) to DHL to clear and send to Izmir plus 10% of the declared value to Customs. I could just about swallow that and went to make the bank transfer (everything is paid in bank transfers here, even ecommerce).

After giving DHL a few days to send the camera I made my way to Izmir. On arrival at the Customs Head Office in Izmir Airport I was met by a crowded reception of men generally hanging around and reading newspapers. I approached one and pointed at the letter from DHL and asked what I need to do. Suddenly all the other men got interested in my plight and I was taken by the hand and lead into the Customs Offices.

After a few minutes pinballing from one clerk to another, I was told that we had to go to see DHL.

"Have you got a car?" asked the man holding my hand. "Come on, let's go together."

OK I was now starting to get suspicious of this man's intentions. Nothing sexual, but after a year in Turkey you learn that you don't have to drop your trousers to get royally fucked. Usually in the wallet. Anyway, I was completely lost and needed the help.

When we arrived at DHL I was told that I needed to pay DHL another 130YTL for 'documentation'. I then spat the dummy and insisted that DHL Kusadasi had told me that all I had to pay was 130YTL lus 10%, nothing more. I had asked several times and they had made several phone calls to confirm.

"I'm sorry Sir but there's nothing we can do, you have to pay this money". I called Kusadasi and asked what the hell was going on. It would have been cheaper to go to Istanbul to collect this package. DHL had actually charged me the price of a return air fare for sending this parcel to Izmir.

Izmir DHL told me that it was getting late and that I would have to make a decision or it would have to wait until the next day. This wasn't an option as I had only hired a car for a day. I called Kusadasi again and was welcomed by a man screaming at me telling me that I had to pay or forget the parcel. That it was my stupid fault for buying a cheap camera from Hong Kong. OK, I may have been stupid but that's not his business.

People have certain weaknesses, things that send them crazy. I have only a few.

  1. People pinching my nose. This comes from being a child in Turkey where adoring bystanders love to squeeze the noses of children. Unfortunately my had a sensitive nose that would gush with blood at the first sign of a curl thumb and index finger.
  2. People that eat with their mouth open.
  3. Being made to look a fool.
  4. Being shouted at.
I was visually shaking after the telephone call and the guys in the Izmir office offered me water and a place to sit down. What made matters worse, was that I was recovering from a cold and had lost my voice. The only voice I could muster made Joe Pasquale sound like Barry White. This didn't help my 'disgruntled customer' approach.

The man who had taken me to DHL had admitted that he was a broker and I realised that all the men hanging around the Custom's reception were all brokers looking for tourists to prey on. They would help you and take a commission. Which is fine but I wish they would tell these things up front rather than appear to be something they're not. Anyway, my work was proving lengthy and possibly fruitless so my broker friend headed back to Customs alone.

I realised that this battle wasn't going to won today and that at least I wanted to go home with my camera. So out came the wallet. I had no more Turkish money and had to start paying in Dollars. I made and headed back to Customs.

I decided to try and shake off this broker and deal with everything myself. I went from one clerk to another and finally found a middle aged, stony faced woman in a small room. This woman had a face that had seen action. That ex-prostitute numbness. The kind of woman you would meet on the prom at Southend and would greet you with "ello darlin".

I stood by her desk like a school boy waiting for his punishment while she looked through my papers. I smiled my best smile whenever she looked up. She said nothing. The only sound was the rustling of papers, the occasional cracking of her chewing gum and grating nails on skin as she scratched herself and uttered obscenities at the mosquito bites that freckled her person.

As I stood and waited for the verdict, my eyes wandered around the room. This room was full of mosquitoes. It was completely bizarre. Box files and mosquitoes. It was an open buffet for them, feeding on this poor aging dolly. No wonder she was pissed off.

After maybe 10 smiles, I finally broke through. She never returned a smile but she said softly "follow me". We went to another clerk and she was clearly begging him to do something to help me. He sent me off for photocopies and stamped them and we went back to her office.

"Now you've got to go and see the Head of Customs" she said and pointed me to a grand office across the hall.

I knocked and entered. There were two men sitting at desks. One was on the phone and the other clearly nodded "it's the other guy". The man on the phone (the boss) turned to look at me and to my horror, he was boss eyed. Boss eyed and even more stony faced.

"Go out and come back in 5 minutes" he said firmly. I did so swiftly.

After exactly 6 minutes I knocked and entered again. "What do you want?" he asked and I put the papers in front of him. He sighed and tutted and turned to me again. This time he launched into a frightening angry monologue. Clearly telling me something. Something I had no chance of understanding. The only thing I could understand was that he was angry, very angry. All hand gestures were being used and colourful language. I was petrified.

Then ever so softly I heard another voice to my left apologising. I hadn't noticed with all the panic but there was another man to my left. This was the real receiver of the abuse. The man who the bosses good eye was looking at. I was being stared at by the bad eye. Ah ha! Don't watch the right eye I said to myself, focus only on the left.

The boss signed and stamped the telephone directory of paperwork I had now acquired and I headed back to my old Doris.

Well this whole process took almost 4 hours. Going here and there and photocopying and paying money and back to the boss and back to Doris and avoiding Mr Broker. Finally I was clear of Customs. My last challenge was to find a depot on the out skirts of the airport to collect my prize.

After over 4 hours and a total of 390YTL I finally have my new camera. It's wonderful and I'm very happy. Although I am so protective of it. I wrap it in cloth and hold like a new born child. The fear of having to go through this process again fills me with dread.

The moral of this story is, when in Turkey, buy locally.