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.

Monday 2 June 2008

Bill Watson

I'd like to take a moment to pay my respects to a man who I met only briefly, yet was an inspiration to me.

Bill and his wife Cherie arrived in Kusadasi over 20 years ago for a brief holiday but fell in love with the place. They never returned to America and have been living on a yacht in the marina ever since.

I met them one day while fishing on my uncle's boat (which was mored next to theirs). Bill had been seriously ill for many years but his positivity never ceased to make me take stock of all the things in my life I should be grateful for.

My memory of Bill will remain that of watching him walking towards me in the winter rain with a beaming smile on his face. "Ahhhhh liquid sunshine!" he smiled.

Bill passed away yesterday and my condolences go to Cherie and all those who were fortunate enough to know him.