Saturday 13 December 2008

Illegal Alien

It was nearly all over. I was nearly destined to spend the foreseeable future stuck on a Greek island with only the clothes on my back. So what happened?

Well, quite simply, my visa expired and I became an illegal immigrant. It was pointed out rather politely at the police station while I was applying for my residence visa. I was told "you should leave Turkey immediately". I left the next day for Sakiz (the closest Greek island to Izmir).

It wasn't entirely my fault. Through a series of bad communication, I had made assumptions about the state of my visa application that turned out to be completely false. I paid the price.

The price was 162YTL and the knowledge that had I left it just 5 more days, I wouldn't have been able to return to Turkey for a good few months. Here's a picture of me 'eating the fine' (as they say here).

Sakiz isn't that different than Samos. Better shopping perhaps. I was only there for 5 hours so I can't give a detailed description. It pissed down, I looked at Christmas decorations, I bought Ouzo and came back.

Thank Christ they let me back in. Another 3 months at least.

Monday 8 December 2008

I Kiss You!

Today is the first day of Bayram. There are many Bayram holidays in the Muslim calendar but the most important two are Seker Bayrami ('sugar' or 'sweet' festival) and the one we are currently celebrating; the rather sinisterly named Kurban Bayrami ('victim' or 'sacrifice' festival).

For a vegetarian, this Bayram isn't much to celebrate. It's the time when families sacrifice a sheep in the name of religion. The idea is to do a good deed and share the meat with the poor.

Unfortunately it means I get to see sheep being carted around in trailers attached to the backs of cars, their destiny certain. They'll be tied with one leg loose and their throats will be cut by the head of the household. As with most religious festivals around the world, the true point has been a little lost and watered down over the years.

You may be surprised to learn that I actually completely support the original idea. I feel that people should come face to face with what they're going to eat. I think it's honest and noble to hunt (as long as you eat what you kill). It's far more honest, in my opinion, to take a knife to the throat of a sheep than to go simply go and buy your lamb chops from the supermarket.

My father asked if I wanted to go with him today to choose a sheep. I thought long and hard about it. Perhaps getting involved in the process would reconfirm my views and make me even more determined to avoid meat. Ultimately, I don't need that. I don't want to see that.

Anyway, he's gone now to a village to choose a sheep and do the honest thing. Well, kind of. Apparently these days, the head of the household gives his permission to the butcher to slaughter the sheep on his behalf. Erm, am I missing something? I fear it's turned into something of a farce.

Anyway, that's not why I broke my silence. I came here to write about a more pleasant aspect of Turkish culture... the kiss.

It's something I've been wanting to write about for a while but it came to mind because Bayrams mean a lot more kissing than usual.

Let's start with the basics. The greeting kiss.

The cold kiss

I'm finding it a little hard to write because I'm not completely sure of the rules myself. I'm going to explain it as I've experienced it and if anyone spots anything wrong, please let me know.

Complete strangers are greeted with a simple hello or a handshake. However, if the complete stranger is someone very close to the friend introducing you, one party may lean in for a kiss. A kiss in this sense is a simple kiss to each cheek. Lips and cheek rarely meet however and it's more of a touching of the cheeks. This is done whilst still shaking hands.

The scene of Borat kissing the entire male rowing team and then refusing to kiss the female cox isn't so far from the truth. As a man, it's more likely you're going to kiss another man than another woman. It would be deemed completely inappropriate for male and female strangers to kiss.

The tepid kiss

If you've met before, you'll probably kiss upon meeting again. Two kissing men will probably still be shaking hands but may now put their left hands on each others shoulders as a sign of proximity. Again, the sound of the kiss is rarely heard. The lips are actually redundant.

The warm kiss

Amongst close friends and family the kiss becomes more sincere. You may here the lips smack onto the cheek. People may even move to the next phase of the kiss and include a double hug.

In the warm kiss, hands may not be shaken. One party may outstretch a hand in anticipation but it's likely that it'll end in a hugging kiss


The political kiss

For supporters of the Turkish Nationalist Party, the greeting kiss has taken on a modern twist. Where western influence implies a certain infemininity to two men kissing, men lock hands by grabbing each others wrists and instead of kissing at the cheeks, they may opt to softly yet firmly butt heads at the temple. Think of it similar to two very close rams meeting after a long absence.

The respectful kiss

This is very common during Bayram hollidays. This kiss is performed by the younger participant on the elder.

The elder will offer a hand like an Elizabethan lady. The kisser will then take the hand, kiss it and then touch the hand with his/her forehead.

I seem to have achieved the age where I'm starting to receive this kiss. The first time was by two juvenile gravediggers at my aunt's funeral. But, since becoming a teacher, the children have started kissing my hand during religious festivals (albeit that they want cash or good marks in return).

This kiss has a few subcategories:

a) You think I'm how old? - A hand offered to shake may be misconstrued as being offered to kiss. Upon leaning down to kiss the hand, the elder may force the hand down to show that he/she wants no part of the ritual. This may be done because the person doesn't feel old enough to have their hand kiss or simply that they don't like this type of kiss. You either insist or accept. Roll the dice.

b) Gawd bless ya! - The majority fall into this category. The elder graciously accepts the kiss as a form of respect but will then invite you in for a cheek to cheek.

c) Kiss it bitch! - This is the respectful version of the cold kiss. The elder offers the hand to be kissed but then does not follow it up with a cheek. It means "kiss my hand and that's all you're worthy of". I don't like this one. This particular kiss can commonly be seen at weddings. Lots of old strangers and lots of young victims. The problem is, in crowded areas, this can become extremely tiresome as one must kiss all the hands in the room.

The biggest complaint I hear about the respectful kiss is that people don't want to kiss a strangers hand. So you often see a 'no lips' policy being adopted. This works by touching the hand with your chin instead of actually kissing it.

The receiver of the respectful kiss may return the gesture with a kiss on the forehead. This indicates they accept the respect and return it with affection.

The hot kiss

This kiss is reserved for lovers and prostitutes. When I was just 14, I had my first real kiss. She was a 19 year old model from Istanbul and I was a barely pubescent bundle of hormones and bad hair.

My brother was dating her best friend at the time and the four of us sat on the beach and watch the afternoon waves. We walked them back to their hotel and I had no idea what was about to happen.

We exchanged some 'tepids' amongst friends as a TTFN and then she went in for the 'hot'. My memory was being swept off my feet and being knocked for six by an almighty smacker. When I came to, the girls had already left. My brother laughed at me as I struggled to understand what had just happened. I was giggling mess. He took my hand and lead me like a chimp back to our summer house.

Perhaps it was the fact that I had just kissed a 19 year old model from Istanbul. Or perhaps it was partly due to the fact that Turks kiss incredibly aggressively. There was a chance I had suffered a mild concussion.

Europeans tend to kiss slowly and ever so gently begin to introduce a tongue that'll flicker like a candle flame almost unnoticeable. However, if you're lucky enough to kiss a Turk, your experience will be quite different. As soon as the tongue is involved it gets very scary indeed. It's forced directly into your mouth as far as it'll go. Faces twist. Teeth clatter. I've bled before.

The subtleties of the eurosnog are lost in the translation. One girlfriend claimed (6 months into our relationship) that I'd never kissed her. I had of course, she'd just never felt it.

I'm not sure which I prefer. I guess it's a matter of context. Euro style is perfect for a candle lit dinner and retiring to the sofa. The Turkish 'oral rape' style is more appropriate in a 'get your drawers off and brace yourself' moment of passion.

Please also note that all of these kisses can be given over the phone, text message, email, letters and MSN Messenger. The famous Mahir, who put Turkish internet offerings on the map has the catchphrase 'I kiss you'. This is a common sign off for telephone conversations. There are variations. I just sent a text wishing someone a Happy Bayram and they replied "you too, I kiss your eyes".

Turkey's answer to George Michael, Tarkan, had a smash hit with this catchy little number...

...but you may be more familiar with this Australian knock-off...

I'm sure I'll think of other kisses I've missed and update this post but, for the time being, I have to go and see whether the butcher has finished my dad's dirty work. I wish you all a very happy Bayram and, needless to say, I kiss your eyes.

Monday 6 October 2008

The long palm of the law

One thing I've never really encountered here in Turkey is the recreational use of drugs (as long as you don't count coffee, fags, booze and over-the-counter medicine which are all abused to the extreme). My only experience of drugs here in Turkey was a dicey drive in a taxi cab to the fields out the back of Ladies Beach to score some weed off two complete strangers. I was accompanying some English friends who fancied a smoke (I was only 14 and didn't really know what was happening). We all survived and my friends paid over the odds for a bag of something with all the state changing properties of curly kale.

I was chatting to a Turkish girl about this the other day who found it shocking that I'd never come across more drug abuse here in Turkey. "It's everywhere" she said. "Most of my friends take something or other". Interesting. So why is everyone hiding it from me? "I'm always carrying Viagra" she stated matter of factly.

OK, I'm no doctor but I was a little confused as to what Viagra could possibly do for a woman. We then got to the truth of the matter and the real reason that some girls carry blueys...

It turns out that Turkish girls carry Viagra to bribe traffic police if they get caught over the alcohol limit. Everyone's happy. She goes on her way a couple of pills lighter and the copper gets a stonker for 4 hours.

I tell you what, rooting around in this culture throws up more priceless goodies than the lucky dip at Ivanka Trump's 18th birthday party.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Change of Plan

So I'm sitting in the back of this taxi. The driver's arm is in a cast from elbow to fingertips. Between changing gears with his opposite hand (leaving the steering to Allah) he's also reaching across himself to shake his broken arm at other drivers. Under his breath, he's muttering something angrily. I decided to try and directly translate his phrase into English...

"Amina koydugumun pezevengi". Let's break it down.

"am" = "cunt"
"koy" = "put"
"pezevenk" = "pimp"

"Amina". From what I understand, the suffix here creates "to their cunt".
"Koydugumun". This I know. This is the simple past tense form of the verb "put" with a possesive chaser. Thus making "I put".
"Pezevengi". The change in the final letters connects the word to the previous words in the sentence.

Right. So the taxi driver's saying "the pimp whose cunt I put it in". An interesting choice.

I particularly like the use of 'put' here. It's not 'shoved' or 'thrusted', it's 'put' as in "go and put it over there" or "I've just put some mail in your cubbyhole".

He didn't stray from this phrase though. Everyone was tarred with the same pimp brush. He started to complain to me about the state of the country but I was miles away (deliberately. Had I been 'in the moment' I would have been out of that cab).

I sat there thinking about what the hell had just happened in my life. What had I just agreed to?

I know I owe you all an apology. Everyday I'm getting emails asking me what the hell is going on and why I've suddenly taken a break from this series of lessons in the way of the fez. Don't worry, as you can see, I'm still alive.

I got back to Turkey in early September and started pottering around my flat. As I sat there trying to think of a witty status update for FaceBook, I realised that it was probably time to do something with my life. Not that writing pages of information on the techniques of a Hamam Masseur isn't doing something with my life, but it's not going to get the baby a new bonnet (as mum would say ...and no, I haven't become a dad).

I know I promised a full update on the America Tour, it's coming I promise (again). The truth is, in the past month, a bomb went off in my life. I realised that another winter in Kusadasi wasn't going to be the most productive thing I could do. The sensible option would be to move to Izmir (the nearest big city). Where Kusadasi empties in the winter, Izmir fills as the holiday makers return to their day jobs. This was going to be the place for me.

I considered my options. What could I do? How could I afford the rent? Could I survive in Izmir? I remembered the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) I'd completed at the beginning of the year and wondered if I could finally use this to get some private students. So I called the British Council in Izmir with no real idea what I was going to ask them.

Before I knew it, they'd suggest a vacancy at a very well respected private boarding school. To cut a long story short, an hour later I'd typed my CV, the next morning I had an interview and I started my new job the following day.

I really do believe that sometimes the Universe is looking out for you. When you really have no direction, it'll come and slap you round the face with something that answers all of your problems.

So here's the deal... the school provides me with a house (massive), all my meals, washing and ironing, they are even sorting out my work and residence visas. All I have to provide is my ability to speak English and to stop 9 year olds stabbing each other with retractable pencils for 40 minutes.

I'm in heaven. The motivation and drive I have now is something I thought I'd lost forever after my dog biscuit patent went belly up a few years back. I wake before my alarm at 7am. I'm showered and shaved by 7:30am. Out the door by 8am and drinking tea in the staffroom by 8.01am.

Don't worry, I will continue the blog and I still have and endless list of things to explain/understand about the Turkish culture. However, I wont be focussing on my new job as the school is respectable and my writing clearly isn't.

As I'm still settling into my new flat, job, life, suit, shoes, role etc, please excuse any delays between posts. I will try to use my spare time effectively to see what different elements of Turkish culture the big city throws up.

Thank you all for your patience. I kiss you.

Friday 22 August 2008

Do yourself a favour ...and me brother

My brother is currently doing rather well in the charts. With your help we can shift him from number 2 to number 1! If you pop along to, you can find his latest release in their top downloads list. It's called 'Juss a Beat EP' or 'Praise the JBs EP' and his name is ATFC. Please buy the EP (it costs less than a fiver) and let's try and get him to top the charts. I love you all.

Almost there...

You missed me? OK, don't be nasty.

I'm here in sunny Surbiton, stuffing the remain Primark bargains (yeah well no-one's heard of Primark in Turkey so you can tell them it's like Armani, Primarni if you will) into my already swollen suitcase. On Monday I head back to Turkey and settle in for the winter.

My god, it's been an amazing few weeks. America was something to behold. I know I didn't update but after driving a few hundred miles every day, the last thing you want to do is crank open the laptop. I promise to write up the whole trip and there are some special moments to share. Although not completely ArseAboutFez related, it'll be worth a read (photographic taster below).

So please sit tight as I say my farewells and board the BA to Izmir. I'm coming home people...

Saturday 26 July 2008


I spent the evening of the 20th trying to make good the custom of saying my goodbyes to relatives. Luckily my friend Serhan was around with his car to help me fulfill my duties. I knew 5 weeks was a long time to be away, especially during the height of the summer season.

Arriving at my uncle's hotel, I had barely enough time to neck a whisky and a couple of beers before I made my way down to meet the First Choice coach running a Bodrum transfer that I'd managed to secure a place on.

Bodrum airport is actually closer to the town of Milas and has only recently started accepting international flights. First Choice, it seems, has pretty much got the monopoly.

I often hear Turks complain about the quality of the tourists coming from England. Everyone remembers a time when Turkey was an 'exotic' location, somewhere off the beaten track. As I tried to kill the hours in the airport, I could see what the Turks were moaning about. For that night as I searched for a place to sit amongst the masses jetting back home to Doncaster, Manchester, Newcastle and Gatwick, I realised that the departure lounge had all the class of Jeremy Kyle's Green Room.

Nevertheless, 4 hours later I had touched down and was soon in the arms of mum. I'd missed her loads over the months and it was lovely to see her again.

After a brief kip, it was time to crack on with the main reason for my early arrival in the UK... renew my passport. I had already filled out the forms online and had them sent to mum in preparation for my arrival.

Apparently now you have to call to make an appointment. Gone are the days of turning up at the Passport Office and waiting. Unfortunately, there was a slight problem...

Due to a strike, the only appointment they had was in Newport, Wales which would mean leaving immediately. After some calls, it was apparent that I didn't need a 6 month expiration buffer on my passport and therefore didn't need to renew it to be accepted into the USA. Bargain.

But I will take a moment here to rant about Civilisation.

Q: Can I travel on my passport? A:

[1] Home Office: No
[2] Passport Office: Don't Know
[3] US Embassy: Probably
[4] Trailfinders: Yes

Note: 1-3 palmed me off to their websites. Why? I was on the phone to them at the time. Anyway, then I got straight onto the other pressing matters at hand. Firstly:

Oh fish and chips. I missed you so.

Next came prawn korma swiftly followed by a Chinese I couldn't even carry. I was recharged with missed tastes.

Over the next few days I caught up with friends, helped mama around the house and slowly got myself prepared for a trip I've dreamed of all my adult life...

Sunday 20 July 2008

Caption Competition #3

Sitting having a drink in a cafe the other day, I noticed this strange cartoon character on the side of my Coke can. I couldn't find the character's name but it appears to be some kind of penguin. Perhaps you can come up with a name for him. I came up with a few as the bubbles poured out my nose...

Iyi yolculuklar

Today's post is a bit of a hotch potch of things, which kind of represents my mind at the moment anyway. I'm a little stressed and disorganised. It's nothing new to me and I've come to accept this side of my personality.

Tonight at 11:30pm, I join a group of tourists on a transfer bus to Bodrum's Milas airport. From there I head to the UK to sort out a few things (renewing my passport, applying for Turkish residence etc). A week later I board a plane to New York with my greatest mate Pete. After a day of shopping, we pick up a hire car and head West towards Chicago.

My other greatest mate Sam will be meeting us there to join us as we head further West to Denver where Sam will leave us and head back to London.

From Denver we'll continue our journey all the way through to Las Vegas. After a couple of days of throwing huge amounts of money at the roulette wheels and open buffets, we'll catch our flight back to Blighty.

Once back in the UK, I'll spend another week celebrating mum's birthday before returning to Turkey on the 25th August.

Well, this is the plan. Everything's booked. All that's left is to pack my bags and say my farewells.

I feel strangely nervous about the journey. I'm excited too, don't get me wrong. But I just feel that I've overlooked something crucial. Perhaps it's that 'did I leave the iron on' paranoia that age brings. I'm sure it'll be just fine once I board the plane.

The fact that I'm almost completely deaf isn't helping the situation. Why, you might ask? I was at a concert last night here in Kusadasi. One of Turkey's best loved pop stars was in town and my step brother had a VIP ticket going spare.

You may know this pop star from his attempt to 'shake it up sekerim' at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. I believe he came 3rd, which would be a nail in his coffin in the UK, but here he's something of a superstar.

A fantastic gig. He's a handsome beggar with a great stage presence.

So, anyway, I'm going to leave you now to pack my bags. I will be documenting my journey across the US so the title of this blog may seem irrelevant for a while. Hopefully you'll enjoy the break from all things Turkish or perhaps I'll just use the opportunity to draw comparisons from that culture. Nothing is certain yet.

Watch this space...

Sunday 13 July 2008

Fezsaurus #6

At yarağına kelebek konmuş - A butterfly that's landed on a horse's cock

I was in the barber's the other day. Since I told him I'm writing this blog, he's always got a new pearl of wisdom for me whenever I pay him a visit. As I was enjoying my massage by a 9 year old boy called Ahmet (a sentence that would have me wearing an electronic tagging device before you could say 'name and shame' back in Blighty), Ozkan (the owner) shouted excitedly "have you heard this one? have you heard this one?". He then launched the above phrase.

I was a little embarrassed to ask the meaning of this particular gem as the shop was full of children and not wanting to corrupt their innocent minds, I simply shrugged my shoulders. He left the half-shaved face of his customer and brushed Ahmet aside.

"Look at this air conditioner" he said pointing at the wall "see how I've jammed newspaper in it to stop it moving about?". I hadn't noticed, but he was right. "Now it's like a butterfly that's landed on a horse's cock".

"I understand", I lied.

"Can the horse fuck the butterfly?" he asked.

"Erm, not really"

"But the butterfly can fuck the horse!". With that he tapped me on the shoulder and with a knowing wink, he resumed his business.

So there you have it (or like me, you don't), anything that's been bodged is like a butterfly sitting on a horses cock. If anyone can help me out with understanding this one, please do.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Breeze Block

As I've mentioned many times in this blog, the Turks are a brave nation. They single-handedly freed their own land from a multitude of occupiers and are perpetually ready to do it again. Any trip on the nations roads will tell you that these people have no fear. A man will slice his own arm off, rub a bit of lemon cologne on it, light up a cigarette and calmly say "tsk, it's nothing".

But I've discovered a weakness; a chink in their armour if you will. Something that sends a shiver down the spine of any God fearing Turk. Something so feared, they'll always make sure they are carrying something to protect themselves (and others) from it. So what is this foe? What is the Turkish Kryponite? For a Turk, there is nothing as horrifying as a mild breeze.

The fear of catching a cold is absolute and even in the height of the hottest summer, a Turk will always make sure their lower back and neck are protected from any kind of cool air.

Actually it's the cold in any form. Cold water, cold floors, cold breeze, cold sea... they are all potential menaces.

Whenever I talk to my nan about my mum and days gone by, the one thing that sticks in her mind is how "she always walked around barefoot and never covered her childrens' feet". The fact that the ambient temperature was 50 degrees matters not. The shortest route the devil can take to whisk away your soul is through your feet via cold tiles or cold water hitting your stomach.

Through the years, I've been ill many times in Turkey. Everything from throat abscesses to dysentery and every time I come down with something, the response is always the same: "you must have got cold". It's certainly a possibility but having lived 31 years on a small island in the North Sea, I'd probably say my body is pretty resilient to all things 'chilly'.

Taking a wild guess, I'd wager it was swimming around a couple of metres above a cracked sewage pipe that blessed me with Amoebic Dysentery (being, as it is, an 'anal>oral desease). I'd go further to say that eating meat from a sheep's carcass that'd been swinging in the midday sun for god knows how long led to the numerous times I've been scared to sneeze for fear of ruining my shorts. But, no, it must be the fact that I wasn't wearing slippers.

This isn't just a wives tale. I hear doctors make this diagnosis. I wonder, though, is there any truth in it? Could it be that we're wrong and they're right? Just what damage can the cold really do?

"The results are back and I'm afraid you have a rather aggressive form of Gonorrhea. Now, I want you to think back. Have you drunk any cold water recently?"

When offering water to someone, you always have to ask "would you like cold, room temperature or a mixture?". Everyone has their own way of taking water and it's always best to ask.

Children never drink cold water (though, bizarrely, ice-cream is all good). Children a wrapped up like Inuits as soon as their arse leaves the sea. Childrens' feet are constantly monitored for any indication of dropping below 'warm'.

Here's an experiment you can try at home. Below is a picture of me with my gorgeous niece Lily. Show this picture to a Brit then show it to a Turk and notice the difference in the response:

You probably got responses similar to...

British response: "My God, she's gorgeous. Look at that fat belly! And those feet! I could eat her up".

Turkish response: "My God, her belly's not covered! ...and her feet! Poor thing. Oh my God!" followed by a stream of prayers along the lines of "God protect her", clutching their ear lobes and knocking on the table (it's the "God protect you" gesture).

When I was a baby, we lived in Turkey for a year. In Antalya, arguably one the hottest areas of the country. I was just months old and mum would lie me in my cot and point a fan at me to stop me from cooking in my own sweat. On seeing this, my grandmother would begin to pray for God to intervene and cut the electricity to block. It just ain't done I tell you.

When my Turkish family used to visit us in the UK, no matter what season they arrived, they'd be wrapped up in scarves, gloves and full length fur coats. "It's like ice, I tell you. Ice!".

I mentioned the throat abscess I had once. My neighbour came in to see how I was doing (I was fine. I just had a sore throat). What happened next, will haunt me till the day I die (probably of a cold neck). She rubbed my entire body in Deep Heat, wrapped me in blankets and closed all windows and doors to keep the warmth in. This was one of the hottest Summers on record, by the way. Ever cooked Salmon en Papillote? You see where I'm going with this.

The other night I was having dinner at my cousin's house. As I sat there on the balcony, I looked out to all the other families doing exactly the same. It's a lovely sight to see people enjoying the evening with their loved ones, chatting, debating, laughing and tucking into the delights of the Turkish kitchen. But if you look closely, you'll notice that theirs a constant ballet of people switching seats to avoid the evening breeze.

Throughout the summer, you'll hear Turks complaining of sore throats ("I must have got cold"), or lower back pain ("I must have got cold"), headaches ("I must have got cold") and a whole host of other cold-related ailments.

I know that now having written this post, I'm opening myself up to the most severe bout of the flu but I simply had to share this rather curious difference in our cultures. Excuse me now while I take a cold shower and sit on the balcony to dry off with a nice cold glass of water. May God protect me.

Monday 7 July 2008

Village of the Damned

The Brits are here! The Ocean Village cruise ship pulled into port to bring a touch of class to our small town.

The class manifested itself with everyone on the top deck clapping and singing along to classics such as 'Alice (who the fuck is Alice)', 'Is this the way to Amarillo?' and 'Hey baby (ooh ah)'. Individually, any of these songs instill in me fantasies of an indiscriminate massacre. But the combination of all three plus the discordant wailings of football shirt clad masses had me turning myself into the police before anyone could get hurt.

I fear that 2 years in a tourist resort has fueled my snobbish distaste for the stereotypical "these aren't like the beans we get at home" English tourist. But, after observing this faux-posh cruise in full swing, I can conclusively say that this is a cruise for people who most certainly do do cruises.

Friday 4 July 2008

Not Enjoying the Silence

There's been something in the air these past few days. Perhaps it's the heat but everyone seems to have the arse with each other. The Turks do this well and they have a special word for it: 'kusmek' (it's even got its own hand gesture, look out for it in 'single hand gestures pt 2'). Appropriate translations would be "mardy", "to be in a huff", "a woosy", "to have an arse on", "to be in a mood with..." or "sulking".

I've come to realise that the Turkish culture has a multitude of social rules and etiquette that are known but usually unspoken. They come naturally to most but, as a foreigner, I have to learn by example or, more usually, by getting it wrong.

'Kusmek' usually materialises in the form of being sent to Coventry (FYI I spent 3 years in Coventry and I wouldn't wish it on anyone). Silence is weapon of choice. You don't speak to the person you're 'kus' with and you do everything in your power to avoid social gatherings where your paths might cross.

The process can last years; the Turks are stubborn to a fault when it comes to seeing the process of 'kusmek' through. My father and my uncle didn't speak for over 5 years. My father and my aunt about the same. It's not uncommon and I know many people who are 'kus'.

So what leads to this break down in communication? Well, as I said, breaking one of the many social rules is the usual way. Here are some I've picked up along the way:
  1. Your relative arrives in town and you don't call him to welcome him = Kus
  2. Your relative arrives (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to tell you he's arrived = Kus
  3. Your relative is leaving town and you don't call him to say good bye = Kus
  4. Your relative is leaving town (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to say good bye = Kus
  5. You're not invited to an engagement/wedding = Kus
  6. You're invited but you don't go = Kus
  7. Your elders come to your engagement/wedding but you don't visit them in the following week to kiss their hands = Kus
  8. Anything to do with money = Kus
  9. Disrespect of any kind = Kus
  10. Forgetting to use the appropriate title (big brother, big sister, uncle, auntie, sen/siz (Turkish equivalent of the French Tu/Vous)) = Kus
  11. Not calling elders on holidays/birthdays = Kus
  12. Breaking rules that are aren't really official or known but plucked out of the air for the sake of making a rule = Kus
The list is endless.

Never underestimate the power of silence. I'm usually given the benefit of the doubt being an ignorant foreigner but I have been on the end of 'kus' and it's a killer. I've also noticed that I'm starting to dish it out more and more (it's necessary in the graduation to fully fledged Turk).

This playground-style huffing may appear comical but it's deadly. Watch your back. Kiss appropriate hands and make those calls. Be careful out there people. Hell hath no fury like a Turk scorned.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Nothing's gonna change my love for me

I was sitting in my flat, minding my own business when there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find my neighbour standing there in full professional photographer garb.

"I have to learn this" he said calmly, "I've got a new job and I need to learn this camera. I have to learn about sunset photography and you can be my model".

There followed an hour of standing on the balcony holding a picture of the Dalai Lama (something to do with being able to see foreground detail). These were the results...

Ring any bells?...

Come on, you remember!

Welcome to my home. I offer mediocre sex and a spectacular view.

Here you can see with only minor photoshop work, the picture is transformed into something quite special.

Oh, I do love the random events that occur here daily. This simply wouldn't have happened in Surbiton.

Blowing my uncle's trumpet

OK this is a shameless plug for an evening my uncle will be holding at his hotel. The Turkish Jazz trumpeter Muvaffak (*bites lip*) 'Muffy' Falay is going to be visiting Kusadasi and holding an exclusive gig at the Palmera Hotel on Saturday the 5th of July.

The evening starts at 10pm and you can make reservations by calling the hotel on +90 (0)256 612 62 12. First drink is 25YTL and normal prices after that (think of it as 25YTL entrance with a free drink).

If you're not into your jazz, I'm going to be there and will be signing chests later in the evening.

Friday 27 June 2008

Deal or No Deal?

I just submitted my application to appear on 'Varmisin, Yokmusun' (the Turkish version of 'Deal or No Deal'). Unusual for someone who doesn't have a television (and is ultimately quite shy).

I'll keep you posted...

Thursday 26 June 2008

God's a busy man

Excuse the absence. I have a good excuse though. My babanne (father's mum AKA 'nan') was taken ill the other evening. She had a high temperature caused by an infection. The family rallied as the doctor warned us to prepare ourselves for the worst.

As we sat in my nan's apartment considering the options, it was tragic to watch this woman, the Queen of our family, fighting for her life. This woman, who pulled a broken family together with her own hands, was now so completely helpless.

The decision was made to get her into hospital as soon as possible. Though the trauma of getting her down 3 flights of stairs and across town was a risk, the potential benefits were too great.

My uncle called the Turkish ambulance service but they told him "we can't send you an ambulance because you're not screaming" (note, if you need an ambulance, scream. If you can't because you're, say, unconscious, get someone else to scream for you. 10 Lira should do it). So the only other option was to call the local private hospital, who'll give you an ambulance tour of middle-Anatolia if the price is right.

The sirens were our cue to prepare the house. Sofas were pushed aside as the ambulance crew eased nan onto an inflatable stretcher. Then it was a case of all the men in the family making light work of getting nan down the stairs and off to hospital.

As we sat outside Casualty smoking, we knew this was not going to have a happy ending. I called my family in the UK and told them to get ready for a short notice flight to Turkey.

That night, no one got much sleep as we waited for the inevitable phone call.

The next morning I went to the hospital to see how she was doing.

I couldn't believe my eyes. She was better than I've seen her this whole year. Talking, laughing, joking. And today she's even better. She's clearly not ready to go yet.

At times like these, people rally together. More so than I've seen in the UK. The Turkish sense of community is something to behold. People come out of the woodwork to help you out. At the very least they call and offer their help.

It's also at times like this that the Turkish language gets peppered with phrases requesting the assistance of Allah. Especially when talking with the elderly, Turks have a whole arsenal of things God can offer.

I thought it would be a good idea to give you a list of the most common:
  1. Allah korusun - May God protect you
  2. Allah iyilik versin - May God bring you good things
  3. Allah saglik versin - May God bring you health
  4. Allah kolaylik versin - May God may it easy for you
  5. Allah kabul etsin - May God accept it
  6. Allah rahatlik versin - May God make you comfortable
  7. Allah bereket versin - May God bring you wealth
  8. Allah emanet olsun - May God protect you ...again
  9. Allah gecinden versin - May God bring you many more years
  10. Allah gostermesin - May God never show you
God can also be used to fight your battles. With phrases like:
  1. Allah cezasını versin - May God punish you.
  2. Allah kahretsin- Damn it!
  3. Allah belanı versin - This is the show stopper. If uttered, it often leads to a whole string of other phrases protecting everyone in the room. It means may God punish you but in an absolute way. A way that has no recovery or cure.
These are only a tiny fraction of the things God is often asked to do but it's important to know these phrases. They are not always said by heavily religious people but more used as part of everyday language. In the same way the English might use 'for God's sake' or 'Jesus Christ!' or even something as simple as 'get well soon'.

So, babanne, Allah saglik versin.

Saturday 21 June 2008

Turkey vs Croatia

I will be resuming full service soon but things have been a little busy here with my dad arriving and all. In the meantime enjoy the video from tonight...

Monday 16 June 2008

En buyuk Turkiye!

I'm not really a football person. I guess I always found it a little bit intimidating in the UK. You're either in the know or you're not ...and I'm not. But Turkey is more inclusive when it comes to football; it's more social and less aggressive. That's not to say that Turkey doesn't have its hooligans, it certainly does but they're confined to the stadiums.

Turkey is currently playing in Euro 2008 and they seem to be doing pretty well. Walking through town, it's great to see everyone huddled around portable TVs with cables trailing back into shops. This is how I always remember football in Turkey.

Last night, my dad arrived from the UK ...and just in time for the Turkey vs Czech Republic match. As I said, I'm not really a huge fan of the game but, my God, what a match...

Gizmo finds a home

I called almost every ex-pat in Kusadasi today trying to find a home for little Gizmo (as he/she was briefly known). The vets wouldn't take it in. The sanctuaries were full. And ultimately I knew I couldn't keep the little fella.

I even started contemplating doing a single-mother style abandonment outside the vets but I knew I wanted to see this little chap have a future somewhere secure.

My last hope came from a lead from one of the ex-pats. Christine at Gossips Restaurant likes cats. I was down there in a flash.

"I already have 11 cats that need homes" she said.

"Do you want the 12th?" I asked

"Absolutely not ...can I have a look at it?"


Opens box to reveal tiny bundle of cuteness. The rest is history. Gizmo finds a new home with some new brothers and sisters. My allergies begin to heal. My newly arrived father's blood pressure returns to normal. Job's a good'n.

Go and eat at Gossips Restaurant in Kusadasi. Although I've not eaten there, it's clearly the best restaurant in town because they have a heart big enough to welcome Gizmo.

Thank you Christine. Allah razi olsun.

Sunday 15 June 2008

Arse About Fez T-Shirts

I'm writing this with one hand as I seem to have adopted a kitten. I heard some crying from outside and found this tiny little orphan. He (or she) was filthy so I gave him a Johnson's Baby Shampoo bath.

It's now asleep in my hand. Name is currently either 'Pissy' or 'Mogwai'. Feel free to send in suggestions.

In the words of Withnail "Jesus, you're covered in shit"

Anyway, that wasn't what I came to tell you about. I wanted to let you know that I'm having a dabble with some t-shirt designs. Thought you might find them amusing. I recommend that you don't wear the rude ones in Turkey...

If you want to take a look at the other designs, pop along to the cafepress store I've opened up. I know they're in the States but I'm looking for alternatives. Have fun.

Fezaurus #5

Sikemiyecegi esegin onune ot atmaz - He wouldn't throw hay in front of a donkey unless he was going to fuck it.

Have you noticed that the donkeys are getting a lot of action in these phrases? They get lucky here again with this little charmer.

You know that person who never calls unless they want something? And when they do something 'out of the goodness of their heart', you know there's something waiting around the corner? Well this is the expression to use.

Saturday 14 June 2008

Peace off!

The Peace Boat slips into the sunset with hardly a sound...

Give peace a chance

Kusadasi's port welcomes ships almost every day during the summer and, as my apartment has a clear view over the bay, I've come to recognise the ships over the years. It's rare to have an unknown liner coming into port but yesterday saw such an event.

We welcomed the Peace Boat! I'd never seen it before so I was keen to check it out on the internet (too much time on my hands?).

Apparently this ship is something to do with Japanese hippies. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for peace and supporting environmental issues and was really happy to see Kusadasi doing its bit by welcoming the boat into port.

It was mored outside Starbucks and the view as I sipped my skinny-decaf-hazelnut-mocha-frappacino was something to behold.

I love the ships coming in and out of port and my proximity rarely causes me any bother. But, as evening fell, it became clear that the Peace Boat wasn't going to live up to its name.

Yeah, yeah, very pretty and I'm sure I wasn't the only one praying for peace last night...

Peace Boat my arse.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Down the YouTube

YouTube is still banned here in Turkey but through a combination of IP filtering and favours from family members living outside the country, I've managed to create a YouTube channel. I can't really edit it much and I'm not even sure what it looks like but it's live, I think.

If you find anything suitably ridiculous you'd like to add to the channel, please feel free to send it over and I'll put it up.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Seek and ye shall find

I was just wondering how people are finding the site so I had a look through the stats. One thing the stats do tell me is what people are searching for on google that leads them to this collection of randomness. Don't worry, I don't know who searched for what but some of the things people typed into google simply had to be shared.

Of course, there's the classic "arse about fez", "arseaboutfez" and variations on the theme "arse over fez". Then, surprisingly, comes "ottoman slap". It seems I'm not alone in my quest to learn this killer technique.

Hamams appear quite frequently in the search phrases. From the DIY enthusiasts looking for "at home Hamam" or perhaps a simple "soapy massage full length" (innocent I'm sure) to every Turks dream of a "Russian Hamam washing men". There's a lone cry for help with "Turkish bath embarrassing erection" and the bolder "Bodrum gay Hamam", "gay Hamams Kusadasi", "Hamam Kusadasi sex" to the specifics of "older men Turks Turkish bath Hamam gay", "massage no towel naked Turkey", "erotic soap massage" (are you sure?), "mens arse massage" and everyone's favourite, the "Arab gay Hamam".

Popping up now and again in the stats, are questions that I feel I should try to answer:

"Why did Ataturk ban the fezzes???". An innocent enough question, but it's the many question marks that add a certain desperation. So here's your answer... From what I understand, Ataturk banned the fez to try and pull Turkey out of its Ottoman heritage and into the 20th Century. Other reforms include banning the Arabic script and the MC Hammer trousers.

"How do you clear a package from Turkish customs?". It's an arse-ache. Do whatever they tell you to do and just pay the money. In the future, don't import anything ever.

"What do olive trees smell like?". They smell like trees.

"Kusadasi prostitution prices?". 150YTL for 2 hours. 200YTL for the night. FYI I have a lovely smile and an ample bosom.

"How much for a pint of lager in Kusadasi?". Generally anywhere between 3YTL to 10YTL depending on how poncy you want your environment to be.

It's nice to see my family turning up in the results. People are actually looking for "rude nan" and even asking the question "who is rude nan?". Well, she's my nan. Also with "Elsie Kusadasi" it's great to see my cat getting a fan base. And who can forget "how do we keep Minos living?". It's a good question, but I think he's doing OK on his own.

Of course, the internet wouldn't be the internet without a whole host of slightly raunchier searches. "Arse fuck in cologne" had me puzzled for a while. I've already warned you about using cologne around the 'toilet area' so I hope you're talking about the city. Perhaps someone could explain "fez job" to me? I honestly want to know. "I love arse" brought someone to my virtual door. As did "shag my wife up the arse safely". I like the considerate use of the word 'safely' here.

Sometimes I wonder what people were hoping to find. With statements like "I got an erection when the barber massaged me" (everyone does, don't they?), "the barber massaged me with a vibrator", "I think my friend is gay, slaps me on the arse", "nans want to be fucked up the arse" (you can't generalise like that) and the less stomach turning "today I arrived at the airport to pick up my dad" to the reassuring "the foundations can hold", it seems as though people just want to share their thoughts with google.

As you would expect, all things Turkish litter the terms people are searching for. "Turkish mens armpits" (come on, we've all searched for this), "armpit shaved Turkish", "Turkish nans" (what??), "Turkish wetwipes" (why??) and "Turkish woman bukkake" (fair enough).

Sometimes you can see a story unfolding. "Turkish man looking for English woman" to "holiday romance, I've not heard from him" and the inevitable "divorce line English from Turkish"

The beauty of completely random phrases is a joy to me. How on earth did the following lead people to my door? "elevator engineer harness", "products with rude names", "fuck mother", "Japanese pre-dinner hand towels", "working for Benny in Kusadasi" (those from Kusadasi will know who they're talking about. Strangers will just have to appreciate this as beautifully random), "men boarding lift shafts", "rude fruit", "scuba fish hand signals" (fish don't have hands), "solar battery on my roof in Turkey" (so?), "bus London Izmir" (don't get on that bus), "fez toilet" (I guess it could be used for that if you're caught short), "Agva mosquitoes", "ello darlin' English prostitutes" (no doubt, swiftly followed by "'ello, 'ello, 'ello") and the majestic "sitting on a cock, a bus journey" (a journey in so many ways).

As my friend Pete would say, the final set would fall under 'the ego has landed' category. I can't help thinking that someone out there is looking for me: "half English half Turkish", "fez no name" (I want this to be my nickname forever more), "lemon cologne male" (what does that say about a man?), "nice legs, shame about the fez" (yes!), "Kusadasi prostitute" (remember, ample bosom), "cheeky little waif" (ahhh, I was once) and of course "Masallah" (that's very kind of you).

There you have it. The wonderful world of the Arse About Fez readership. Please keep using google as though no one's watching. I'm sure I've searched for worse in my time. But to all of you, no matter what twisted fetish led you to the site, welcome. Take your shoes off at the door, put on some slippers and join me in a Turkish coffee on the balcony. I kiss you.

Monday 9 June 2008

But I'm not sure I want that...

Just reading the label on my new hair wax. Is that a boast or a side-effect?

Fezaurus #4

Essek sikmeninde bir usulu var - Even fucking a donkey has certain steps that have to be followed.

My uncle's wisdom continues with this chestnut. This phrase is used when someone is making a right pig's ear of something. They're perhaps taking shortcuts and not doing the job properly. The message here is that everything in life has a right and a wrong way of doing things.

So what are the steps for violating a donkey, I hear you ask? These were explained to me but I can't remember most. There was something about standing on a tortoise (because the hissing noise a tortoise makes is similar to the Turkish translation of 'whoa' or 'please don't move, donkey') and also tying a mirror between the donkey's ears so you can see the owner (or your wife) approaching.

Friday 6 June 2008

Caption Competition #2

Spotted in a toilet in Samos. What could it possibly be telling me I'm not allowed to do?

Thursday 5 June 2008

You say dolmades and I say dolma

As a British tourist arriving in Turkey, you should know that you're expected to obtain a visa before clearing passport control. It's pretty easy stuff. You go to a window marked 'vize' and hand over £10 (they want English money) and the smiling face behind the glass puts a little rectangular sticker in your passport.

This is your multiple entry visa, valid for 3 months. For this reason, every 3 months, Brits living in Turkey without a resident's permit, have to make a visa-run to one of the nearby Greek islands. There's no specification as to how long you have to leave the country. You can be in and out in an hour, as long as you leave.

The picture above shows my visa and if you pay close attention to the date stamp, it expires today. This is why, the day before yesterday, I made my trip to Kusadasi's nearest Greek island, Samos.

Luckily a close friend of the family runs the ferries to Samos so it's never usually a problem for me to get out of the country on short notice. I called my uncle, who made the necessary arrangements and told me to "be at the port at 8am and ask for Abdullah" (Mr Tarantino, you can have that line for free).

Upon hearing I'm doing a visa run, most people I meet begin to place duty free orders. Armed with my booze requests, a camera, some Euros and my passport, I headed off to get my ticket out of here.

The new port of Kusadasi is very posh. I remember the days when there was not much more than a fish market and a policeman to welcome arriving cruise liners but these days it's a fully operational port complete with Starbucks.

Clearing passport control is always a little worrying. They tend to take their time looking at my passport as the amount of multiple entry visas barely leaves room for my photograph.

We boarded the majestically named 'Kusadasi Express' and began our short journey past Ladies Beach and out to Samos.

The spanking new Kusadasi port building.

The Kusadasi Express.

Turkish flag flying, we leave the port.

...past the island that gives Kusadasi its name.

...into Greek waters.

I found myself a seat and plugged in my headphones. Before long, the entertainment began...

As you know, boats are wet, they rock about and they have little steps all over the place. Well it appears people quickly forget. As I sat and watched the guy across from me turning green and sweating profusely there was an almighty thud.

I turned to see a girl lying on the floor at the bottom of some steps clutching her head. Behind her, descending four steps at a time, was her father and mother. Behind them was her sister who also slipped on the steps, only managing to avoid falling by slamming her hand against the wall and screaming "FIX THIS BOAT!!!!!!!!".

Now, forgive me, but the stairs are wet and the boat is rocking. What exactly could a team of engineers do to 'fix this boat'? Perhaps they could install straps to insure that fuckwits don't start wandering around.

Anyway, no sooner had the girl's head hit the deck than family members began taking pictures of the scene. How about seeing if she's alright before you call Claims Direct?

I may be a little extreme in my views on this point but one of the joys of living in Turkey is that I've left that compensation culture far behind. No doubt the wave will one day hit this country but, in the meantime, people are responsible for their own actions.

I used to love the National Accident Helpline's adverts in the same way I love You've Been Framed (my sense of humour can be best described as Schadenfreude). The sound of that fat lass hitting the deck whilst walking through reception always made me chuckle. And as for Dave Morris (you know, the electrician who was given the 'wrong type of ladder'?), I'd love to see him try and claim compensation from his Turkish employer. Of course, he'd then have to claim for the savage beating he got from his boss and colleagues.

But this particular family were clearly going to be great fun. The father's knees were bandaged up so he'd obviously been auditioning for You've Been Framed previously too. They then wanted the captain to write an accident report of the whole thing (which was also to include the sister's bruised arm). The fact was, the girl was absolutely fine. Her only obvious problem was that she was a nightmare (this claim is not only based on this incident but also that I later overheard her in a restaurant asking for 'vegan garlic butter'. I whole heartedly salute the waiter who promptly brought her a handful of garlic cloves. You're a credit to your nation).

Anyway, back to Samos...

After about an hour and a half, we moored in Samos Town Port. For years I've been coming to the island and it's only recently that I've actually attempted to explore the rest of the island. I'm glad I did.

Samos Town is fairly interesting. If you're visiting, I recommend a walk up into the old town both for its architecture and atmosphere but also for the views over the bay.

Samos Port. All the elegance and grandeur of a garden shed.

The tiny streets of Samos old town. If you can see this sign, then you can probably see the street. Therefore rendering the sign completely useless.

The view over the bay of Samos Town.

One of the first things that always strikes me about Samos, is the the subtle differences between the Samians (people from Samos) and the Adali (people from Kusadasi). You see middle aged women powering around on scooters here whereas you just don't in Kusadasi.

The girls are pretty but they're chunkier. Turks tend to pad out after marriage, whereas the Samians seem to be embracing the whole 'bootilicious' concept. Cleavage is far more on show here. These may seem like ridiculous things to be commenting on, but they're quite telling of the culture. You get accustomed to making judgments based on clothing in Turkey. If a Turkish girl is displaying cleavage, something ain't right.

I was once here for a festival and everyone was out in their finest. However they appeared to have almost no taste. Leopard skin leggings and leather was all over the place. It was like being flash mobbed by Los Angeles hookers. Their fashion sense is only topped by French hypermarket shoppers. Mind you, there was that time I saw a guy in a Berlin train station with a mullet, tash, lime green biker jacket (sleeves rolled up), leggings and winkle pickers. I thought someone had spiked my coffee.

If you're coming to Samos and you've got some time, I recommend renting a car and heading off to some of the other towns. One place is Pythagoreion (named after the famous Samian, Pythagoras. You know, the triangle bloke?) on the South coast of the island. It's a pretty little town with similarities to Bodrum and a far nicer place to stay than Samos Town.

Not sure how they wear these.

Boats, beards, backgammon and baby goats. Just what is there not to love about this island?

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to explore the island on this trip. I only had a few hours to kill so I drank Greek coffee, did some shopping, had some lunch and it was soon time to head back to port.

Proof. Me with my vegetarian moussaka.

When I arrived back at the port, the wind had picked up a little. It's usual for the return trip to be a little choppier, but this was just silly. Although this little chap was having a great time.

Our chariot awaits. The Kusadasi Express all ready to express us back to Kusadasi.

Goodbye Samos. See you in 3 months.

...and there it is. The reason for this whole day trip. My shiny new visa. Giving me the opportunity to clog up the internet with my drivel for another 3 months. You lucky people.