Friday, 27 February 2015

Jake out and about


Jake loves to be out and about in Bodrum. He knows all the streets like the back of his paw and will try and direct the biped he leads around to his favourite lunchtime stopovers.  He's pretty peed off that his best-loved establishment, Seaman's House, where he was always given crispy fish heads, whether his lunch companions ordered seafood or not, has closed down. He still tries to make the detour down 'Tequila Street' to see if the whiff of those deep-fried morsels lingers in the air.  (He watched a UK TV programme on canine prowess not long back and learnt from a presenter with ears almost as large as his own, that dogs are able to detect events that happened years ago by just sniffing the air. This was reassuring as he'd assumed he'd been suffering from constant deja vu.)  It's a shame that he very rarely sees inside the buildings he passes.  He had three paws inside a government office a couple of weeks ago and all hell broke out;  shouting, gesticulating and very offensive language was directed his way. A dog could get a persecution complex in this town.  There is one shop in town where dogs are very welcome. It also turns out to be the best photocopy/form filling destination for those applying for residency permits. Jake has no need of such paperwork but a very attractive young whoofer called Barbie helps her biped run the establishment and a visit to such a peachy pooch makes his day.  




İrme Stationers - Under the main mosque. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Glance Back in Time.





When I was in England at the beginning of this year, I sorted through my father's photo albums and found a few snaps he'd taken of Bodrum in the mid 1980s.  He was no great photographer so excuse the quality but I thought it would be interesting to position myself in the same spot and take pictures of Bodrum today, 30 years on.  Picture number one explains why I always had dirty feet in my 20s as that rough mud in the foreground is in the main square in front of the Town Hall. Palmiye cake shop is in the same place, but the sea is a lot further way now.




These photos are taken in front of the TMT Hotel. There was no access along the sea front in those days, now there is a road, petrol station, houses, a supermarket and a dock for cruise liners and ferries.




I had to stand a bit further back to take today's picture as the original position had me facing a house wall. 




This photograph was impossible to replicate so I took the shot from the front looking up. In the original picture I would have been standing in the sea, or probably treading water, at the top left of the frame. 





This last one is a personal snap taken in the late 1980s of our office in Tepecik.  It's now a butcher.  






Friday, 20 February 2015

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time


Despite the subject of my last post, I like to keep BacktoBodrum upbeat and positive.  There are plenty of disquieting stories in the press about this country I have chosen to call home, but to me that is all they are - articles in the news, I have little or no experience of what they document.  My life here in Bodrum bumbles along pleasantly; book clubs, writing group, Greek lessons, archaeological and literary lectures, lunches and coffee with friends, knitting, cooking and dog walking.  You get the idea  -  so what happened to me last week is rather strange.  I wasn't going to write about it - in fact for 3 or 4 days I began to think it hadn't happened and I'd either dreamt or imagined it.   Jake and I set out for our mid-morning walk, later than usual because the weather wasn't very inviting.  We'd only gone about 200 meters when my eyes started to water. They often do this in the wind so for a milli-second I didn't think anything of it but then my lungs started burning and I could hardly see. I'd noticed a puff of smoke billowing from the football pitch and scenarios starting whizzing through my mind. I was convinced I was breathing in tear gas but there was no noise, no crowds of demonstrators to be subdued. I took a few steps forward but realised I wasn't going to be able to breath so turned on my heal and ran home. Strangely the dog was unaffected and didn't take kindly to having his walk cut short and resisted all the way. The street was empty so no one witnessed this crying, choking, middle-aged woman dragging an angry dog up the street.  A surprised husband wondered why I'd returned so quickly but my explanation wasn't given much credence.  This was Bodrum on a Thursday morning after all.  My throat was sore for several days and despite all my herbal remedies I couldn't shift it or the annoying cough that came with it.  I searched the local press to see if there had been a silent demonstration but couldn't find any news.  On Monday evening I mentioned it to Chris, fount of all knowledge, owner of The Bodrum Echo and she had the answer.  The police had been practicing!  On Tuesday morning's walk I noticed a police van at the football pitch and looking in, saw rows of body armour lined up.  A good opportunity to find out what they were up to and point out that they were guilty of poisoning an innocent dog walker. They admitted that they'd been practicing with pepper gas and that the wind had unexpectedly blown it further than expected but they were so apologetic that I had to smile rather than be annoyed with them. I even got three  "sorry"s  in English.  When I told my daughter, she could only laugh that the only time in my life I've been pepper gassed, is when I'm walking the dog in a deserted street.  I could make light of this whole experience but when put in the context of incipient "homeland security" laws,  it has left a very bitter taste to go with the sore throat.


I'm not sure what photo is a suitable accompaniment to being gassed but
this is how my throat felt.  


Monday, 16 February 2015

Beyond words.

University student, Özgecan Aslan got on a bus to take her home. She never made it. She was raped and murdered.  Her brutal killing has released a tidal wave of protest all over Turkey. Tonight in Bodrum, men and woman of all ages gathered in front of the Town Hall.  It wasn't really a protest, it wasn't a memorial. Some events are so horrendous there is nothing to do but come together.  It won't stop it happening again and it won't help those who have lost their lives, but sometimes staying at home isn't an option and folk are out on the streets paying homage to a young girl whose life was viciously snatched from her.



My fellow blogger, JaneyinMersin (where this heinous crime took place) has expressed what we are all thinking much more eloquently than I can.  Please click on the link to read her letter to Özgecan.






My Letter to Özgecan

I never had the pleasure of meeting you Özgecan.  I never had the chance to hear you laugh with your friends or sing along to your favorite tune.  No I did not know you at all but I know you now.  Your name will forever be etched into my heart and into the hearts of millions of others here in Turkey and around the world who woke on Valentine’s Day, the day of romance, to the sickening news of your death at the hands of a monster.  We are shocked beyond words hearing of your suffering and of knowing that the simple task of stepping on a bus is no longer safe here in Mersin. Click to continue reading...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Hearts and Flowers

I have no truck with St. Valentine's Day, as the woman who wanted to sell us a bunch of flowers today found out. She tried her best; starting with a dozen red roses, progressing through sprays of carnations, posies of narcissi and finally a single wilting rose, she thrust her offerings at our lunch table trying to shame my husband into coughing up for floral display.  I hate this exploitative hard sell that makes people buy overpriced goods because of the date.  She took a long time to give up but eventually wheeled away her trolley of fading blooms, leaving us a single rose petal as a symbol of her defeat and our refusal to act like sheep.

But to prove that I have not completely descended into grumpy-old-womanism, here are a few snaps of today's hearts and flowers in Bodrum for you romantics out there. .








Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Bodrum Februaries

I arrived back in Bodrum on 4th February 1983 after a couple of months away in England.  I'd left a murky Heathrow in fog and finally stepped off the bus in Bodrum into the fading evening light. I can't remember whether it was wet, dry, warm or cold but the next weekend we piled into a friend's ancient  Chevrolet and bounced and swayed over rough tracks, fording a couple of streams on the way to the seafront at Türkbükü.  This Sunday lunch is etched into my memory.  There was one restaurant open and we were the only customers.  A wander in the damp fields behind the rough muddy road that pretended to be a beach in the summer, produced armfuls of anemones and narcissi and rakı glasses were commandeered to act as vases. We arrived in jumpers and scarves but the sky was bright blue and after a lot of discussion, the table was placed at the optimum angle to catch the sun's rays while hiding from the breeze.  There was no menu, just white cheese and green olives  followed by fish and greenery that had been picked from the same field as the flowers, all accompanied by plenty of lemon juice and olive oil.  After 30 minutes, the woollies and some shirts were abandoned and everyone was basking in the warmth of a February sun.  I had no idea then that I would spend several decades tied to this corner of Turkey, but if I ever wonder why I'm here, this Sunday springs to mind.  Good friends, simple delicious food, winter sun and (you have to travel further a field these days)  meadows of wild fragrant flowers.   For years, I kept a photo of that lunchtime table on a shelf in the kitchen but now I think to look for it, it is nowhere to be found, but I'm sure you can imagine the scene.
We need some of that February sunshine now. It's been unusually wet and windy for the past month and our patience with wet feet, damp walls and puddles is waining.  It's not that we are unused to bad weather in winter, it is just that storms are usually followed by severals days of warmth when we can air our houses and bask in the sunshine.  This year the gaps between the bad weather are so short that we forget they've happened.   Jake so hates walking in he rain that he will stay upstairs and pretend morning hasn't arrived rather than be made to go outside. Which suits me, as I am just discovering the meaning of  "a duvet day".

Jake voicing his dislike of damp windy weather.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

What you can't live without in Turkey


Folders, dossiers and a decent filing system.  We can manage with an irregular water supply, sporadic electricity and no Marmite but you won't last long here without a way of accumulating official paper work.  The general rule of thumb is to photocopy thrice every bit of paper that is issued to you from a government office and keep them all.  I am a lazy filer but I have a drawer where important papers are shoved and it can usually be relied upon to produce what I'm looking for, even though it does have to be completely emptied before I find it.  My husband periodically gets fed up with this and buys more folders which we fill with the contents of the magic drawer.  Six months later however, I guarantee I'll be back stuffing the drawer.  I've been reading the exasperated comments on Doc Martin's surgery for ex-pats from foreigners living here about the hoops they are having to jump through to get or maintain their residency and several seem to think that this extra bureaucracy is laid on especially for the immigrants, but dealing with government offices is just as complex for a Turkish national. I went to check I'd paid my environmental tax to be told that my council tax hadn't been paid since 2009.  We were presented with a computer printout with an impressive list of zeros in the "paid" column and a frightening figure in the "owing" one. I was confident it had been paid it but I now had  to prove it. This involved spreading the entire contents of the drawer over the living room floor and driving to the village house which also has "a drawer". Eventually every receipt was in place and we headed in triumph to the Municipality to hand over our proof.  The documents were whisked upstairs and 10 minuted later the official returned empty handed to say that we didn't owe anything.  I was extremely glad we'd photocopied all the receipts because I'm sure if this can happen once, it probably will again.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Remembering an Eco Warrior


As we go into February it looks like good news might be on the horizon for the endangered coastline of Turkey.  Rather than presumptuously celebrate the possibility that someone in government has actually realised that they can't endlessly sell off what's left of this country's natural beauty, I am remembering a local heroine who put her heart, soul and health into fighting to keep our corner of Turkey clean and natural. When Saynur Gelendost moved to Bodrum in the late 1970s, she probably thought she'd live on a boat in the harbour and carry on her artistic pursuits, but she was not the sort to sit on the sidelines and watch her beloved Gulf of Gokova ruined.  She is famous for her protests against power stations and drew our attention by asking if the generation of electricity should be more important than the welfare of the environment and the public's health.  She asked why 3 power stations should be built in our corner of Muğla on active seismic areas, by a foreign consortium that not only took insufficient notice of the inferiority of the coal available here but also failed to provide adequate filters and, having made this mistake once, carried on making the same mistake again and again. When passive protests proved ineffective she was the first to lie down in front of bulldozers and she embarked on a hunger strike in the 1990s which probably hastened her demise in 2003. Her legacy is that proper filters were eventually fitted.
The power station chimney at Ören. Positioned next to the sea to provide cooling water , a process which is detrimental to marine life. 

If you are sailing in the Gulf of Gokova, you will notice bin bags being collected from deserted bays by a rubbish boat - an idea instigated and brought to fruition by Saynur Hanim after she was shocked at the amount of trash left behind by charter boats. When our village was fighting a cement company that was set on turning our hillsides into an open cast mine, Saynur was there with support and practical advice that helped us rout the developers.

I was reminded of her a second time the past couple of days as tempers flared again between Turkey and Greece over Kardak Island, a tiny cluster of rock between Gümüşlük and Kalymnos.  "Seals belong on Kardak" she stated, "not guns."


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Protest Walk


Map courtesy of BODOSK

Last month I wrote about the renewed threat of hotel construction in the beautiful bay of Kissebükü/Adalıyalı.  Today, Bodrumites are on their way to the proposed site to make their feelings quite clear - violation of this unspoilt spot is not acceptable. The protest organised by Mavi Yol Girişimi was due to be both a land and sea based demonstration but bad weather has caused the sea trip to be postponed to a later date.  I had intended to join the boat as I'd find a 14/15 km walk on rough ground a challenge, but went along to the covered market to see off the intrepid walkers as they got on buses to take them to Çukurgöl, where their 7km walk will start. BODOSK,  Bodrum's Walking Group are organising the hike and insisting that participants are well kitted out for the uneven terrain as this won't be a walk in the park.  That such organisation is necessary just to get to this spot makes one wonder how massive construction can even be considered.


At 9am this morning, 150 were expected to join the buses with plenty others following in cars and others arriving on bicycles.  It is hoped that 100 protesters are also walking from Mazı  to meet up at Adalıyalı.

Provisions for the walk

Only well kitted-out participants accepted
I felt guilty not getting on the bus too, but a gentleman with a dog was turned away, so I didn't agonise too much while Jake and I watched the buses drive off.   Walking that distance while my 4 pawed friend stayed at home wouldn't be right.  (I noticed later that the spurned dog had gone by car)


The list of supporters is impressive and note should be taken that the Bodrum mayor has also put his name to the petition.  These days local government has little say in what goes on in their area but let's hope people power can keep the bulldozers out.


Here is a You Tube clip of how the day progressed :


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Doc Martin

I'm going to start the year singing the praise of some local heros. 
Martin Redman bought his house in Bodrum in 2006 as an investment, but after 2 heart attacks and a week in Papworth hospital, an out-of-the-blue offer to buy his three UK businesses had him selling up his life in the UK and moving to Bodrum on Christmas Eve, 2008.  Like all ex-pats living here, Martin and his wife, Jane, can only stay if they have a valid residence permit, and having negotiated his own way around the system, Martin was happy to help his friends jump through the necessary bureaucratic hoops.  But as with many things here, the minute you get the hang of something, it changes and in April 2014, a new ministerial department was established to simplify the treatment of foreigners in Turkey.  Unfortunately lack of preparation and bad communication resulted in chaos, applications for permits even had to be temporarily put on hold: the new law couldn't be implemented as the promised new offices hadn't been opened.  The ex-pat rumour mill was running on full gas and there were lots of huffs and puffs about plots to make all the foreigners leave.  Those of us that have lived here a bit longer know that this is just the way with all new laws, practice takes a bit of time to catch up with the theory.  Having helped friends in the past, Martin joined a Facebook page set up to give information to foreigners facing problems  renewing their permits but was surprised to find hiimself banned after only 24 hours.  He realised that the site had been set up to plug a company charging folk for the application service and Martin's advice had not only been too good, but free.  So Martin set up his own Facebook page and 'Doc Martin's Surgery for Expats on the Bodrum Peninsula' was born. He then spent three weeks putting all his advice into practice, checking the most convenient places to find all the translators, notaries, photocopiers and insurance providers needed for a hassle-free experience. The site explains in the simplest terms, what you need, what you have to do and where you have to go and how much it will cost in Bodrum to apply for your residency. It will also tell you how to deal with all the other bureaucratic problems that crop up from paying your road tax to getting a Turkish driving licence.  The site now has 1600 members from all over Turkey, and as each municipality has its own quirks, it has become a sounding board for folks to find others in similar situations and share sound advice. Martin is very quick to shoot down hearsay and deal only in first hand experiences.  He is also the only site I have seen where British Consular staff get involved and provide the official UK government view on situations.  So I'm nominating Martin as a local hero as he does all this on a completely voluntary basis.  I think Jane needs a pat on the back too as 95% of the visitors to the site are female so Martin has a lot of ladies hanging on his every word.