Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back pouring pints for the public

I just got home from my first shift at my new bar job.  It went really smoothly and everyone there is loverly.  It was a smallish function, 50th birthday party, so perfect to ease me in.

Naturally, they love me, and the assistant manager is stressing about trying to find hours to give me so they can keep me around.

I'm pretty happy with whatever though, the handful of money I got tonight was almost what I got paid to do the whole website for the restaurant.  And at the moment that feels like a fortune!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blip eliminated

I rearranged the posts below and added in Episode 4 and Episode 10 for your reading pleasure.  Of course all the time stamps are wrong now, but they all should have read "too late" anyway.

I haven't written any more just yet.

On the plus side, I've found a great fringe venue that is employing me as a bar wench for the festival, so that will happily combine earning some pocket money with staying up ridiculously late and maybe even getting to watch some free shows.  Hoorah.

Also, I'm going to the beach tomorrow, yay!

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Episode 10: In which she is not from Japon

Location: Everywhere!
Date: All the time!

Apparently it is perfectly acceptable for Turkish men (we didn't see that many women) to just randomly say "Japon! Japonya!" as a greeting, in passing, as a general statement.

Neither Ineke or I tended to respond to the comments, but they were noted every time.

I wish I had been able to say "Kurd! Armenia!" but I'm just not that rude.

FYI: I'm Chinese. Or Kiwi. Both, actually. Not Japanese. Also, I love Japanese people. I think they're awesome. I'm just not one of them.

Episode 9: In which there is no (dam) road

Location: Atatürk Lake
Date: 25.05.06

We were told by the guy who rented us the car that there was a bridge across Atatürk Lake, the huge man-made-money-spinning body of water that lay in our path.

There is no bridge.


Luckily the mechanic who we had to take the car to gave us directions and general information about the ferry we needed to take instead. Apparently the road or bridge had disappeared with the creation of the dam (and the) lake.

While we were waiting for the very helpful mechanics to check over the car (something wrong with the the gas intake valve), I noted the slightly pimp maroon curtains all the way around the black towncar that was parked in the driveway next to our little Mermet.

After they charged us a miniscule 20YTL (approximately 20AUD (the NZD is too unstable) or 8GBP) for the adjustment and oil top-up, we were on our way. We weren't sure of the way at a fork in the road - the map wasn't helpful and we didn't know which town we were aiming for anyway - so we stopped to ask an old man squatting by the side of the road (this is a reasonably common occurrence). He had no idea what we were talking about, even though Turkish for ferry is feribot, not that hard to understand for either party.

So we picked a road and crossed our fingers.

A few hundred metres down the road, we noticed a car coming up behind us, fast. Thinking it was just another crazy Turkish driver, we pulled over a bit to let them go by. It turned out to be the curtained black towncar from the mechanic's, being driven by the mechanic himself. He told us we were going in totally the wrong direction, so we did a u-turn and made the ferry on time.

We passed back through the intersection where we made the wrong turn, and wouldn't you know - the old man was squatting just metres from the sign that said "Feribot"!

Episode 8: In which she refuses a "taxi"

Location: Mt Nemrut
Date: 25.05.06

After an ordinary dinner, we headed to bed. We were feeling ambitious enough, or masochistic enough, to try and be up for the sunrise. This required us to leave at 4am. Huzzah.

The gossamer-thin air burned the back of my throat more harshly than it had done the night before, and I thought something would burst before I got to the summit. Meanwhile the sun was climbing faster than I was.

At exactly the instant I wanted to collapse in a heap, a man appeared in front of me leading a donkey.


It was tempting, believe me. But a misguided sense of ego and the backpacker instinct to spend as little as possible combined forces and made me say no.

The man didn't move. Neither did the "taxi". He asked again. I still said no. Damn.

The sunrise was entirely worth the effort, thankfully. The crowd was different to the previous evening, a lot more Turks than foreigners, and mercifully there was no inane cheering.

Episode 7: In which they are misled about breakfast

Location: Karadut
Date: 24.05.06

On our return we had a very slightly heated discussion with one of the proprietors about rates, discounts, meals and other things. We were all tired and what he was asking seemed a little pricey. It did include ensuite rooms, dinner and the "best breakfast in Turkey" though.

We asked whether it was just a Turkish breakfast, which he denied it was.

When we inquired as to what it was then, he said "olives, cheese, cucumber, egg, tomato, bread".

So it was exactly a Turkish breakfast (yes, this is what I ate every day when I managed to be up in time for it). He then insisted that it was still better than all other Turkish breakfasts.

We accepted anyway. They had rescued us after all.

Episode 6: In which they visit the tomb of a god

Location: Karadut and Mt Nemrut
Date: 24.05.06

As the crippled car pulled into the guesthouse carpark, we were told if we wanted to go up to the summit to watch the sunset, we would not only have to pay what seemed like a lot of money, but we would also have to leave immediately.

We had enough time to throw some warm clothes into the back of the SUV and scramble in. This seemed ridiculous when the temperature was still in the thirties, but more than one person had assured us it would get cold as soon as we neared the top of the mountain.

The summit carpark was 12 kilometres away. After the first four or five, the driver started operating entirely in first and second gear. The huge truck was shuddering over the rough stone-paved road. I admitted that the car breaking down may have been a blessing in disguise – this road would have been impassable had we tried ourselves. And then we would have been stuck part way up a very steep mountain.

A 600 metre uphill trek awaited us as we got out of the truck, bundled up in anticipation of the cold that didn't disappoint. I convinced myself that it was the altitude and the painfully cold air in my lungs that was making every step such an effort. It seemed to take me a very long time to reach the eastern terrace to join the others, and meanwhile the sun was ever on its downward journey towards the horizon.

We had come up the eastern side, the total lack of other tourists justifying what was initially a doubtful decision. King Antiochus I had created a burial mound for himself on a scale as massive as his own ego. The top of the tallest and most impressive mountain was lopped off at his whim and replaced by the pyramid that serves as a backdrop for the 10 metre tall statues he installed on the east and west sides. Antiochus considered himself not just the king, but also a god. His statues were as tall and impressive as their comrades – Apollo, Zeus and Hercules. Huge eagles and lions also looked out at the vistas surrounding Mt Nemrut, guarding his last resting place.

These days the heads have all toppled down, and sit in front of the partially rebuilt bodies. The view extended through the clear dusk air all the way to the horizon, huge Atatürk Lake snaking around the fields and reflecting the orange light. We enjoyed the quietude on the eastern side before joining the throngs on the west.

There was a decided lack of clouds in the sky, which made for a pretty but unexciting sunset. The light reflecting off the statues was beautiful though, of course leading me to take far too many photos. The applause of the tourists was entirely inappropriate and unnecessary, but I try to ignore mass hysteria in all its guises. They disappeared almost immediately afterwards, which left me with that weird feeling that I get when I am the only person in the theatre that insists on staying until the movie credits finish rolling. A combination of "why are they leaving?", "should I be leaving?" and "hehe, I get the place to myself now" (and also that sense of smug satisfaction when there IS something else to be seen).

It's quite hard to be smug when you're cold though. Strange.

Episode 5: In which they need help

Location: Road from Narince to Karadut
Date: 24.05.06

My earlier description of our little car wasn't very flattering. But it was accurate. I could deal with the lack of air conditioning, the lack of non-Turkish cassettes to play, the lack of central locking. What was really difficult to accept (along with the insane driving of the average Turkish motorist) was the almost nonexistent power of the LPG. Apparently this is normal, but when we're going up a hill on an open road at about 40kph, it's frustrating to say the least.

Somewhere on the road to Karadut, the gas cut out. We were coasting down a hill at the time, and as a passenger, I didn't even notice until Ben pulled the car over. Thankfully we were on a reasonably straight part of the very windy surrounding roads. The car made some awful noises for the next few minutes as Ben tried as hard as he could to restart it. We tried everything except for switching to petrol, because we were told not to and because we had no petrol anyway.

Eventually we decided to risk a rescue from a passerby, and with the help of our hazard lights and a raised bonnet (hood for American readers), we managed to flag down a minivan full of German/Turkish tourists (the wife was German, the husband Turkish and various family members were either or both). We decided that I would go as an ambassador for the stranded car so Ineke could stay and perhaps better explain the problems to any further well-intentioned motorists.

The minivanners were lovely and drove me the eight or so kilometres to our guesthouse. The husband explained everything to the proprietor who immediately opened up his SUV so we could hurry to the aid of the little Mermet and its passengers. Half way there I got a call from the stranded ones. Apparently another worker from the same guesthouse had managed to start the car by switching it to petrol. We carried on anyway to make sure they were safe, and then followed them back to the town. We weren't sure about whether or not to stay, but we supposed after the helpfulness in saving us, we at least owed them that.

We weren't sure about whether or not to stay, but we supposed after the helpfulness in saving us, we at least owed them that.

Episode 4: In which they visit the egomaniacal past

Location: Mt Nemrut area
Date: 24.05.06

As always happens when I visit the remains of ancient empires and kingdoms, I am amazed at the elaborate extent of structures and memorials.

After the town of Kahta we got to see an old Roman bridge, royal burial sites, old fortresses and the capital of ancient Commagene with its treacherous stairwells to underground temples.

We saw columns, carvings, statues, reliefs. Apollo, Mithridates I, Heracles. Lions, eagles, bulls.
The old kings of the area even went so far as to slice the tops off a hill and a mountain and replace them with more aesthetically pleasing pyramids of pebbles.

I guess royal burials can't be ordinary. But more on that later.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Episode 3: In which they narrowly avoid The Passion

Location: Gölbaşı
Date: 23.05.06

About the time we realised we were driving in the darkness, we decided to stop and look for a place to lay our heads.  Conveniently, the town of Gölbaşı was there to assist..  A unlikely looking place with simply "Otel" on the sign above the door turned out to be one of the best customer service experiences I've ever had. 

After approving the rooms, we were seated and given the traditional offer of tea and coffee.  I was never entirely sure who worked there and who was a resident or friend, but everybody was watching "The Island", which unfortunately (for us) was dubbed in Turkish.  We took turns having showers and trying to converse with the help of a phrase book and small English-Turkish dictionary.  It was late by the time I got to use the only shower in the place, and we were a little concerned about finding anywhere to eat.  Luckily the receptionist had just had his dinner delivered, and offered to arrange the same thing for us.  After we chose pizza and köfte (meatballs), the delivery boy disappeared and returned with very reasonable and reasonably priced food, which we ate whilst trying to determine exactly what Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson were up to.

The receptionist asked if we wanted him to go out and find an English language DVD (or more likely, VCD) so we would understand what was going on.  We tried to decline, but he insisted.  We told him any genre was fine, but preferably something lighter like action or comedy.  He returned with a rather excited "Mel Gibson, Mel Gibson!"  Curious, I examined the proffered disc.

The.  Passion.  Of.  The.  Christ.

Jesus.  Literally.

What was that movie even doing in central, conservative, Islamic Turkey?!  I guess Mel is more pervasive than I gave him credit for.

Thankfully, Elvira was extremely quick with her democratic refusal – she managed to get across the fact that it was a very long movie, and it was late already.

The receptionist was so lovely that he ran out, against our protests, to get us another movie.  He returned with Doom (a Karl Urban and The Rock film I didn't even know existed) and Sin City.  We decided on Sin City, even though that's probably just as long as The Passion.  When it turned out to also be dubbed in Turkish, we took our leave as politely as we could.

In the morning, we were given breakfast (although that wasn't supposed to be provided) and of course more tea and coffee.  They even high-pressure hosed our car for us before we left and got all those bugs off the windscreen.

For about 4 pounds each, I think we got a pretty good deal. 

Episode 2: In which they eat ice cream with a knife and fork

Location: Kahmaranmaraş
Date: 24.05.06
Our car was supposed to be a 2000 model something, but a reliable car at the least.  What we got was a 1997 Mermet (I think?).  Apparently in Turkey, a 1997 car looks and runs like a 1984 Mitsubishi Sigma.  LPG/petrol hybrid, boxy exterior, retro interior, tape player, engine with absolutely no guts.
After we finally got on the road with a full tank of LPG, we made out meandering way eastwards.  We had been told to stop and drink the water from the stream at Tekir Dagi, but we couldn't find anywhere near the water to stop.  The mountain scenery was quite beautiful enough to make up for it though.

Some helpful policemen (who seemed to only have pulled us over for a chat), recommended the best place in Kahmaranmaraş for ice cream, and I'm still not entirely sure we found it.

Nevertheless, we drove through the rather industrial town and found a huge ice cream parlour on the outskirts.  The sun was blazing by then, as if we needed more of an excuse for an ice cream stop. 

Kahmaranmaraş is famous throughout Turkey for its sticky, chewy, guaranteed--not-to-melt-for-eight-hours ice cream.  Past publicity stunts include hanging it and carving the ice cream like a doner kebab and using it as a tow rope to move a car (if you can believe it?!).  It can be served by the cone and in a rainbow of flavours, but traditionally comes in a pistachio nut encrusted slab of vanilla, on a plate, with a knife and fork.  I don't think I could have left it for eight hours to test their boast.  The ice cream was deliciously creamy, and sticky enough to lift my plate along with it when I speared a forkful. 

Would I recommend it to others going to central Turkey?  Of course!

Episode 1: In which she gets up before noon

Location: Göreme
Date: 24.05.06
Those of you who have lived with me know that my sleep patterns are far from normal.  If left alone, I tend to go to sleep somewhere between 3 and 7am, waking up sometime in the early-mid afternoon.  This has been the case in recent weeks in Göreme, so attempting to leave here on the road trip by 9am was somewhat of a challenge for me.
Nonetheless, I dragged myself out of bed after a couple of hours of sleep, finished packing my bag, made myself a sandwich and a coffee for breakfast and waited for the other intrepid travellers to arrive.
In typical "try to get a group moving" style, the others didn't show for another half an hour.  Leaving my bags in the restaurant, we went to pick up the car.
As is usual in this town, it takes forever to get from Point A to Point B (usually movement is retarded by copious amounts of tea (or water in the recent heat) and conversation that ranges from polite to gossipy to engaging).  After a quick trip to the ATM, we discovered that we had to wait for the car to have its oil changed.  After that it had to be washed, which resulted in the entire backseat being soaked.  Us backseaters decided to walk to Ineke's and meet the car there.  After loading her luggage and waiting for the boys to use the car to do some mysterious potplant errand, we picked up Ben and Elvira's luggage from their place, went somewhere else to pick up some cassettes (!), picked up my things and then raided the market for water and snacks.
By the time we got on the road, and this is before the petrol stop, it was 11.15.  So much for good intentions!

New Series - Just call me Jack Bauer

For the few months I have had a half dozen or more partially penned, intelligent, reflective and/or observational pieces to post here.  They are still unpolished or unwritten and definitely still unposted. 
I have decided that to complete them all as well as give a recount of my recent trips I will need to revert back to the episode format and probably the trusty bullet point post.  Road trip first and then hopefully the rest. 

I wasn't going to post any of them until they were all finished, but then I realised that was a fool's errand and totally unfair for the readers who keep returning to find nothing new for weeks and would then be hit by a deluge of traveller's tales.  So enjoy the first ten or so!
P.S. The name "Jack Bauer" is just about all I know about the TV show 24 (and that the actress that plays his daughter is in the Godawful "House of Wax").  I wish this weren't the case as it seems a pretty interesting show.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Killing time

I know I haven't kept this up to date recently.  At all. 

Since getting back to Edinburgh I've been through various emotions about my unemployment, but mostly I have been taking full advantage of my renewed social life and sleeping all the times I'm not out (should sound familiar to anyone who's ever lived with me).  I turned entirely nocturnal and then decided that was too predictable and have been doing total all nighters instead.  In the two weeks I've been here I think I have only gotten to sleep in darkness two or three times.  Of course it's only completely dark between 11pm and 3am, but still ...

Anyway, my point - here are some photos I uploaded ages ago but never got around to linking.  They should keep you busy for a while until I can get other things online!

They're from a neighbouring town with some scary souvenirs, and also from a hot air balloon ride I did which was fantastic!

Sorry for those who've already seen them.  I'll have to put up new activities for you soon. 

Monday, July 03, 2006

My most self-abasing apologies

Current location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my online presence in journal style. Four years in which I wish I could have genuinely written about everything that's happened to me. Perhaps there will be a book to come.

In the meantime, I have been trying to do justice to all the funny little things that have happened just in the past few weeks and it's virtually impossible. I managed to make it back to the UK after a long and arduous journey from central Anatolia, and then spent time in London followed by Wales followed by Windermere in the Lake District. Now I find myself back at home in Edinburgh, where funnily enough the online journal (not this one though) started for me.

I have been lucky enough to find that I have a lot of my good friends here – some have remained and some have returned – and have been spending all my time catching up with them. Hopefully there will also be time for me to catch up on tidying things up here, and perhaps find myself some gainful employment.

Wish me luck!