Sunday 30 March 2008

Efe'ing Bus Service

Yesterday evening I boarded a bus for Izmir. Izmir is Turkey's 3rd biggest city and arguably the most cosmopolitan. It's a wonderful place, not necessarily beautiful, but Izmir has all the advantages of a big city while keeping a small town feel. Anyway, I've probably talked about Izmir before in previous posts.

The Turkish bus system is impressive despite the lying ticket salesmen - "Izmir, Izmir. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Izmir Now, Izmir now!" shouted one guy. I ran and bought my ticket and breathlessly asked him to point me in the direction of the bus. "Oh it'll be here in an hour". No real need to shout "hurry" then. Cock.

Anyway, the buses are clean, comfortable, on time and the service is excellent. One thing I noticed about the system is that, when booking your seat, they try their best to separate men and women. The assumption is that women wont feel comfortable sitting next to a man for a prolonged period of time, so they try not to put them together. Interestingly though, they don't have this on planes. Either they're assuming it's a different class of commuter or they're just resigned to the inevitable fuck fest that's bound to ensue when you seat a man next to a women without the safety of an aisle between them.

As I sat down, I noticed that a few mistakes had been made in booking and the steward was moving men around so as to give the women some breathing space. All this in the name of making women feel comfortable. It's a wonderful idea, I suppose. Chivalrous to the extreme. Imagine my surprise then when they started playing the in-bus entertainment; a 70's Turkish comedy that would make Benny Hill blush. Knockers all over the shop. Well I can't speak for the women on board, but I was enjoying myself.

I got chatting to the guy sitting next to me as I noticed he was giggling along to the film. His name was Halil. Now Halil was also the name of my Great Uncle and a name I know because of a famous song in the Aegean Region.

The state of Aydin and other close by were home to a group of legendary freedom fighters called the 'Efe'. Even now, you can hear people affectionately call each other 'Efe'. The 'Efe' people had their own culture, songs, dances and folklore. One particular song is called 'Coketme'. It's a personal favourite of mine as it starts with the line "Hey Halil, I've just got back from raping". Things were different back then.

The 'Efe'

Halil, from the bus, works as a elevator engineer. He was a calm, softly spoken but extremely warm character. Although I found him very hard to understand, we got along just fine. Just 10 minutes outside Kusadasi we pulled into a garage where we were told we were going to have a 20 minute break so that the driver could have some dinner. I was a little pissed off as the journey should only take an hour anyway.

Halil laughed as he broke the news to me. We decided to go and grab a tea. As we sat down, Halil stuck two fingers up at the waitor (you do that in Turkey, you get two black teas. You do that in England, you get two black eyes).

As we drank our tea, Halil told me all about his life as a lift engineer. How is job was very risky but full of adrenalin. How his hatred of safety harnesses as it feels like someone's holding him back, so he doesn't use it. He also told me how much he's paid. I tell you one thing, you're not going to get me dangling over a lift shaft for £180 per month.

After 20 minutes, we were on our way and they commenced the service. It starts with a hand full of cologne, which you use to wash your hands and rub anywhere that feels nice (usually back of neck and mouth). Then we had water. Then tea, coffee, coke or juice. Then water. Then more cologne.

To cut a short story even shorter, we arrived in Izmir and Halil helped me find the service bus into the city itself. This guy hadn't seen his wife and kids all week while he was working in Kusadasi, yet he didn't get off at his stop so that he could make sure I got to the right place. Once off the bus, he gave me his card and caught another bus back to his home.

This, my friends, is how civilisation should be. Complete strangers selflessly going out of their way for each other.

And this, Ken, is how a fucking bus service should run. I was a hand-job short of a perfect journey and all for £4. So please tell me why I have to endure the shit heap that is a London bus with its grime, abuse, stench and drivers deliberately trying to get you to run the length of the bus by accelerating as soon as you pay your fare for £2 minimum. That means if I want to get a bus from my home to the library (10 minutes walk) I have to pay £2. No coffee, no water, no juice and no fucking cologne.

I once got a bus home from Kingston and found myself sitting opposite a bus driver just off to start his shift. The schools were kicking out and I noticed him swearing to himself. Well, he was actually swearing loud enough in the hope that I would start conversation with him. It worked because I'm a twat.

He went on to tell me about how he hates children, most races and most everything. How he's been in compulsory counseling for anger management and how his military past has affected the way he views the world. "I'm programmed to kill" he said calmly. "I could kill anyone on this bus, and London transport know this". Now whether he's capable or not, the fact he's telling a complete stranger his desires should mean he doesn't get to drive the public around.

Anyway, I'm here in Izmir for another day and will be returning to Kusadasi tomorrow. I'm hoping to catch a ferry across the bay tomorrow from Alsancak to Karsiyaka. Watch this space for more public transport reviews and reports. Hmmm, OK I need to find something to spice this blog up.

Saturday 29 March 2008

They only bloody pulled it off!

I was woken by a call this morning from a friend who's been reading this blog. He was wondering whether I'd looked out of my window yet. I hadn't.

This was the view before I turned in for the night:

As you can see, there were two tugs pulling away relentlessly through the night.

I was expecting to pull back the curtains to see the view I've got used to over the past 3 days. But no, the persistence had paid off. This is my new view of the bay:

Sky Wonder has been dislodged. The final team of 5 tugs seemed to have done the trick.

They are now in the middle of the harbour and appear to be running checks, pirouetting the ship while the lifeboats make runs to shore bringing back everything that had been jettisoned. If you look at the port side of the hull, you can see the black marks left by relentless shoving by numerous tugs.

So it appears this little adventure is now over. The balcony never ceases to provide entertainment in my television-free world. Whether it's a forest fire, spectacular storm moving across the bay or a stricken vessel, I never tire of pulling back the curtains every morning.

One other thing, when my friend called this morning, he also offered a new random swear word. "Olurken havalanan ruhunu sikiyim" - meaning "after your death, I'm going to fuck your ascending soul". It is, I'm sure you'll agree, a brilliantly brutal phrase. I will be testing this out over the next weeks to get my enunciation just right for my next dealings with DHL.

Friday 28 March 2008

Still Tugging Away

As I drew back the curtains this morning, I was hoping to see a change in the situation. It seems that not much has really happened. I have kept a marker using the funnel of the ship and the window of a hotel behind it to see whether the combined efforts of the tugs have had any impact on the position of Sky Wonder. But, no.

I noticed a change in tactics yesterday evening when they lined up the tugs (and even the pilot boat) along the side of the hull and appeared to be pushing the ship further towards the shore. It was an interesting move (if a 'move' can describe something stubbornly static).

But today, in a moment of frightening yet inspiring brilliance, they've shaken things up a little. So 3 tugs ain't moving this bad boy? Perhaps one alone could do the trick. Does the phrase 'too many cooks' really apply though? I would have gone for the more relevant 'all hands on deck'.

Oh well, here's the latest pic (note the rope hanging loose in a kind of "for fuck's sake" gesture)

Thursday 27 March 2008

Wonder Stuck

As we see the first of the season's ships coming into port, the town is beginning to wake up. I've seen 5 or so ships come in since my return and most come and go silently ...well except for the horn blasts of thank you as they leave. I've figured out the 'thank you' blast code. It goes like this:

Ship - Ship - Ship
Tug - Tug - Tug

And that's the basic 'thank you' in cruise linish. FYI if the horn is facing directly at my balcony, it can also be an instant relief from constipation (like constipation is ever a problem in Turkey).

One ship has yet to say thank you, however. That's the Sky Wonder. It arrived in the evening to a rather nasty storm with winds that were creating roof terraces where people didn't necessarily want them.

I heard a general rumour that ship had been run aground over by the yacht harbour and so ventured out on the balcony. Sure enough, Sky Wonder was blown away from the port by the winds and onto a sand bank just the other side of the bay.

According to the Telegraph, the ship was full of Spanish tourist and some Aussies. Most of which have now been evacuated to land but some chose to stay with the ship (why would you do that?).

Well it's been over two days now and the ship is still sitting there like, as the Turks would say, an 'armut' (meaning 'pear'. The term armut is used for anything or anyone that is stationary and useless).

On the first day they had one tug boat trying to pull the ship into deeper water. The second day saw the second boat join the action. Both desperately trying to dislodge the ship from its sand bed but still nothing.

I woke this morning to see that a large fishing boat had pulled up along side to, presumably, offer it's support. There is an air of flogging a dead horse about that whole procedure. At dinner last night, my relatives offered their own advice. "Just leave it there as a home for fish". Now, I thought they were joking but they then went on to tell me that this area of the coast is mainly sand which doesn't provide safe hiding places for fish to lay eggs. "Many people throw their old cars into the sea for the fish". Ecological salvation by polution. I hope you're listening Mr Gore.

I will keep you updated on the plight of the cruise liner but, in the meantime, here are some pictures from the balcony:

They've sent a marching band out to entertain the tourists. Hmmm trapped in a Turkish bay to the sound of the Turkish military. I'm not sure the Australians onboard will appreciate the irony.

Monday 17 March 2008

Rude Nan #3

I arrived back here in Turkey on the 5th of March. After a good nights sleep I headed down to see how nan was doing.

I walked into her flat and she was lying in a hospital bed that they'd brought in for her. She looked so helpless and old.

"Look who's come back" said Suzanna, the Turkmenistan carer. "Who's this?"

There was silence as nan clearly had no idea who I was. My heart sank.

"Nan, it's me Billy." She kissed me. "Swear nan, can you swear?"

"Fuck your mouth" she muttered. I was overjoyed.

She's still with us.