Monday, August 5, 2013

Staying alive.

When I was little, before my mum died, I used to have a reoccurring dream about drowning. At least twenty five years later the details are still vivid in my mind - I had this dream a lot. There were three occasions in my childhood where I came close to (or at least was convinced at the time that I came close to drowning.) Twice in the sea, and once in the school swimming pool. The times in the sea were a combination of unexpected currents, and bad judgement. The time in the school swimming pool is more difficult to define in just one word.

My primary school had its own pool. Every class had a swimming lesson once a week. Each class was split into four groups - the best in group one, the worst in group four. I was at the top end of group two. The lessons were designed to get us working towards achieving swimming badges. Group one students took all their badges at least a year early, along with a few kids from the top end of group two. I was one of those kids. When we were about nine we were doing something called 'lifesaving 2' - the idea was to test your endurance in the water and put you in near drowning situations - you had to swim a length entirely underwater, swim around the outside of the pool continuously for thirty minutes, dive for objects on the bottom of the pool in the deep end, and tread water in full clothes for five minutes with one hand in the air. That was the longest five minutes of my life. I was already physically tired from the other challenges. My clothes were impractical, thick and water logged. I kept treading water. I remember my limbs growing heavier and heavier. I remember reaching a point where every part of me was aching, and thinking I couldn't possibly go on - believing that I was going to drown. I didn't try to swim to the side, somehow I didn't understand that there is always a choice, that I could go to the side of the pool and get out any time. Failure was quite literally not an option because I hadn't the brains to realise I could stay no. I carried on treading water. A lifetime later the whistle blew and the test was over. A few weeks later I got a new badge to sew on my swim suit.

It was a pivotal moment for me, although quite a slow burning one. The memory of that morning in the pool stayed with me. The initial relief at getting out and succeeding didn't. Gradually I grew to hate going in the pool. A few years later I worked out that I really did have choices about what I would and wouldn't do and I chose never to go swimming again. For five years I held to this policy, despite my grandpa having a pool in his garden, despite numerous visits to countries far hotter than the UK, despite living within spitting distance of the sea, I stayed dry. Then a boyfriend, who was really more of a best friend, and really really should never have been a romantic interest, encouraged me to try again. We were in Lanzarote, it was hot hot hot. There was not much to do aside form sitting by the pool, I went in once or twice. I found I didn't want to repeat the experience.

Another five years and I was living twenty steps from the beach with a child who thought there was nothing in the world more wonderful than going in the sea. So I went in with him - it was not something I wanted to do, it was simply my fear of him paddling too far was far greater than my dislike of being in the water. We moved away from the beach and despite 40 degree summers I never expressed any interest in finding a pool.

Five more years have passed. We live by the sea, we have a swimming pool in our garden. Up until a few months ago my attitude remained unchanged. I would go in with Hero and Rafey, but not to be refreshed, just to settle my fears of something happening to them. When they went in the sea without me there was no going out of your depth, there was no going past the depth of your knees.When they go in the water I don't sunbathe, I don't read. I stare without blinking, my stomach in a knot until they are out, and dry, and at least 10 metres from the shore line.

Or at least I did. A few months ago I had a very rough time. Things too painful and too personal to share on a blog were happening. In effect I was drowning myself on land. I had another pivotal moment, a moment where I realised I need to get the fuck over it, let go of all my hang ups, of the thousand and one things I do to inhibit myself on a daily basis and live. I am a good survivor, but living I struggle with. I survive like one of those creatures that builds a bunker under ground and only comes up for air at night, if at all. I had grown far too desperate to be secure, at the expense of connecting with the world around me. When we were in Ankara I lived a life of indifference, I didn't realise how deeply unhappy I had been until we finally left. In Fethiye I was so desperate to never have to leave I was refusing to take any chances, any risks, indulge any slight change to my "stable" little world that might upset the balance. It was idiotic in the extreme - I was destroying my own security by being so fearful - stilling myself into a coma, just one step away from being dead.

That moment of realisation changed me. I have been trying to say yes instead of always an unthinking no. Trying to do, and to change, rather than just to accept.

On Sunday we went on a boat trip. This was a big deal for me. Boats have been on my list of "things I don't like, so I'm going to say no" for nearly two decades now. We live by the sea, there is a large boating community, there are hundreds of beautiful, private bays and islands, reachable only by boat. I was missing out by refusing to try, and my new policy is not to miss out just because. The worst part was the drive to the marina. My body was jittery with adrenaline and nerves, simultaneously my brain was trying to shut down and I felt ready to sleep. It was a long walk down the pier to the boat. We were out for twelve hours - we sailed to Rabbit Island (there are rabbits there, and seagulls, and  rats), parked (is there a proper nautical term for "tied a rope around a rock and stayed"?) and hung out. We all did a lot of swimming. We had a barbecue on board. Three hours in my nausea had just about worn off. I only ended sentences with "...if we make it back" in my head rather than out loud. The boys had a blast. H wants to buy a boat and spend the summers cruising the coast and I haven't said no.

I don't know how long this new feeling of freedom, and saying "yes" will last - it's not the blaze it was to start with, but to be honest nobody can live as Pollyanna forever. I want to do stuff now, not make excuses to burrow. I don't think I am being horribly naive in wanting to open my arms and embrace life - my personality has become too tempered by protecting my children and running my home, and just being a real proper grown up, not to remain a little tentative and a little suspicious. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do, and the only thing I can't do is give that up.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dear so and so (2)

It's that special time again when I write down all the letters I have been composing in my head....

Dear Neighbours-opposite,
Wow aren't you popular! I guess your friends don't know many other people whose complex has a swimming pool huh? Amazing you can fit 15 of you into your three bedroomed house! And you all sound like you are having so much fun - the balcony is definitely the coolest place to sit and enjoy yourselves - I don't know if you realise this or not, but actually the balcony is not in the least soundproof. Nor is the garden - letting five kids loose without supervision to run around is going to get lively! Here's the thing, all those babies are very cute, but would you please get you friends to put swimming nappies on them when they go in the pool? Baby-pee doesn't gross out parents and family, but to anyone else it's just pee. I don't want to swim in a toilet, I really really don't want my kids to. I know those nappies are a bit more pricey than the regular ones, but just think about all the money your friends are saving by using the pool for free / not staying in a hotel! maybe they can put it to good use?
Your hot grouchy neighbour who hasn't been in the pool for a few days.

Dear Omer Tugrul Inancer,
You want pregnant women to stay at home because they are not "aesthetic"??? Seriously? How does that even make sense? On a daily basis I see both women and men who are so-fat-they-could-be-pregnant-but-aren't wandering around, should they stay at home too? Isn't it nicer to see someone who is heavy with child rather than heavy with too much pie? Is it ok if they are a really pretty pregnant person? I have to assume all these pregnant people you've seen are fairly healthy because in between the swollen feet, water retention, and forty degree heat you really don't want to wander far when you are eight months gone. To be honest I felt like I deserved a meddle when I walked to the shop to buy bread when I was that pregnant. Is it because pregnancy is a sign of fertility whereas obesity is a sign of imminent heart attack? I'm still struggling to see how imminent death is more aesthetic than imminent new life.
Any thoughts?

Dear people of Agin,
You caught a bird and assumed it was an Israeli spy? You obviously really love your country and want to keep it safe. Yay patriotism.
Keep loving your country!

Dear Governor of Agin,
It has recently come to my attention that the people in your town are both exhibiting signs of paranoia and limited education. It is not normal to see a bird and assume it is an Israeli spy. Someone really needs to explain about "bird migration" to your people - they must of noticed that birds disappear in the winter surely? The appropriate response is actually not to x-ray the bird and release it when cleared of all charges. Maybe you could introduce them to some pigeons, birds that think the appropriate response to oncoming traffic is to out run it rather than fly away, are both entertaining and amazingly reassuring when you are worried that all birds are spies.
Just a thought.

Dear Fabric-Man-in-the-market,
You rock. I love your 5 lira fabric. 1.5m square of awesomeness. So far I have recovered 6 dining room chairs, a foot stool, and a lazee-boy. It's like I have new furniture! I'd tell you this to your face when I turn up again next Tuesday to dig through the big piles of material, but you know, we are in Turkey and I don't make eye-contact with strange men here.
Please keep being awesome,
The very tall foreigner.
P.S. the cushion covers faded when I washed them. Hasn't put me off.

Dear Men of the world.
I don't like speedos. It has nothing to do with your age of physique, I just think they are weird. It is a little too close to public nudity for me. Sometimes if your belly is really big, you can't tell you are wearing anything at all. It's a little disconcerting. Also I don't think long hair and bald spots are a good combination. And I really don't know why, but I find long nails on men really repulsive. I'm sorry. It makes me fell like a bigot judging you so, but I just had to put it out there.
All the best with being attractive in the future,

Dear Hero and Reis,
When you get to be teenagers and go through your obligatory period of rebelliousness, please don't use the above as your template. Wear black and use eyeliner all you want, just keep those nails short.

Dear Tile-guy,
I don't know if you know this but you are now the sixth person to get the job working on our tiles. Two of the others didn't turn up. The other four were fired for being so deeply incompetent. Please last more than a morning.
The people who really, really don't want their house covered in grout.

Dear Husband,
You have done an amazing job on the house. I am awed, inspired, and amazed by you. Don't give up!

Dear Rafey,
I can't believe how well you are doing learning to read! I did not think we would get this far so fast, you are doing so so well. Could you please please please do me a favour and get to grips with the difference between P, B, D, and N though? Forgetting between the beginning and end of a three letter word can be a tad frustrating,
mum-trying to-keep-seeing-the bigger-picture.

Dear Metro-Vista weather station,
When you predict storms and then change your prediction back to full sun and 40 degrees it makes my week just that little bit harder. Please get it right the first time.
Maecy the-fan-is-my-best-friend.

Dear Me,
It may feel like you are too hot and too confused to even exist right now, but this is an illusion. You will feel so much better if you actually achieve stuff. Turn off the computer and get on with it.
connection terminated.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on moving to Turkey in general and Fethiye in particular.

I am surprised how often I am asked for advise about moving to Turkey. It is very hard to give a definitive answer because every case is different. We love it here, but I have known people never settle no matter how hard they try. Every year I see a few people pack up and head back to the UK, while several more are moving in. These are some of the answers I usually give.

I have lived in three places in Turkey - the capital Ankara, the beach village Sarimsakli (near Ayvalik, two hours above Izmir), and Fethiye. I did not enjoy living in Ankara. At the time I didn't hate it, but I spent six years feeling indifferent about my life - turns out feeling indifferent is not a good way to feel about your existence for an extended period of time. When we finally left and I remembered what feeling happy was, it took months for the nightmares about returning to stop. If you are considering moving there, I urge you to check out this blog, the woman who writes it is making a much better time of her life there than I did. I can't really imagine anyone wanting to live there forever, but if your business is transferring you there for a spell, or you get a job at one of the foreign schools, you can have a blast. There are plenty of other rich expats to hang out with and while away the evenings. If like me you go for love and live on Turkish wages... you may not have such a good time. The events the expat world there organises are expensive, entertainment mostly consists of shopping malls, you really need a car and on just one wage this is near impossible to afford. I did not find the Turks there more than superficially welcoming, and by and large far too interested in one-up-manship that making real friendships.

We were only in Sarimsakli for six months or so. It’s a lovely place and if you have a job before you go, and if you speak Turkish I can recommend it as a perfect place to discover “the peaceful life.” If like me, you don’t have either of those things, save it for holidays. There are virtually no other British expats there. Izmir is only two hours away, but that is about an hour and forty five minutes too far to ever really become part of the expat community, especially if you have small kids. If you have little ones you’d really rather not have to travel further than the end of your street for entertainment. At the end of the street in Sarimsakli is a beach – I think life next to the beach is the nicest place for any kid to grow up, but without any friends it can get lonely.

Just over two years ago we decided to move to Fethiye. It was a snap decision. We’d been looking for schools for Hero in Ankara and none of them were worth the price tag - other than to get him out of the extremely overcrowded free schools. An old Ankara friend had moved to Fethiye – he said there were a lot of Brits there. I started googling. He wasn’t kidding, the population of the town is at least 10% expat. And they aren’t just people with holiday homes they are a real settled community. They have opened charity shops, hold craft fairs, Christmas dos, car boot sales, murder mystery nights, barbecues on the beach, and all kinds of jazz. There are many many other women with kids married to Turks. For the first time in years I am not friends with people simply because of the inevitable (both foreign, both got kids, need someone to go for coffee with) but because I actually chose to be with these people. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, it is the smartest thing we have done in years. Hero and Rafey  go to a gorgeous school, we have a lovely mortgage free home just 2 minutes walk from the woods, two seconds from the pool, and ten minutes drive from the beach.

Fethiye is perfect for us, but would it be perfect for you? I know a few families who have moved lock stock and barrel over to Fethiye from the UK with no reason beyond a few good holidays and the lure of cheap housing. I don’t really get it - we are a mixed family,in the drive for both kids to have a grasp on their cultural heritage, Fethiye is a great place to achieve that, but coming when you have no cultural tie seems odd to me. Still most families who are all foreign, rather than half like us, aren't usually thinking longer term than the next five years. Anyway there are two major downsides to living abroad –

1.) The language. I am not a linguist. It has taken me years and years to get to a reasonable level of fluency in Turkish. I still have to plan complex sentences in my head. I struggle to convey really deep thoughts and feelings. I struggle to be funny.  People still assume I am below average intelligence because I speak too slowly and too clearly. I hate people assuming I am stupid, because I’m really not. I get it though, when people speak to me in bad English I find it hard not to think they are a bit slow on the uptake. A surprising number of people come to Fethiye and don’t bother to learn the language. The assume Fethiye is there to cater to their every need and get frustrated when the locals don’t speak any English

“don’t they know how much it would enhance their business? This is a tourist town...!”

answer, “don’t you know how much it would improve your life to actually speak the language of the country you are in...?”

Because here’s the thing – tourists get ripped off. Not all the time, and not by everyone, but enough. I went to the clothes market to buy some school shirts for Hero. The price said £10 (25 tl) I got them for 10tl (£4), my husband went back and got three for 10tl. Aside from stuff like  that, you will need to ask for directions in Turkish and understand the response. You will need to pay your bills in Turkish, set up a phone line with Turk-Telecom, catch a bus and check where to get off. You’ll need to be able to go into a supermarket and ask where the milk is, and if you don’t know the word for milk you’ll end up standing in the aisle mooing. Not cool. People are kind, if they see you are struggling they will try and help, which is nice, but after a few weeks / months / years of this you will slowly eat away at your own independence. My advice, if you are not prepared to learn the basics, don’t come.

As a side note I think living in Turkey is giving my kids a huge advantage in life and this is down to the language. They will speak, read, and write two languages fluently. Whether they want a career in something that needs two languages or not when they are older is up to them, but they will always be able to get a job. And they will have an edge that other people don’t when they apply for jobs. There are a lot of people in the world, the market place is competitive anything that makes you stand out is a good thing. I have huge admiration for the English-English families who manage to make it work here. They generally have to hire tutors to support their kids when doing homework, and work with them at home to make sure their English is up to scratch (I do that too) but they do it and I personally think their kids are better off for it.

Part 1b) You will always be foreign. There is enough of an expat community in Fethiye that there is no need to ever be lonely, but you will always be different. Always stand out. I am six foot tall, very pale, and blonde. It is extremely obvious that I am foreign. I have mostly grown used to this, particularly now I can speak a reasonable amount of Turkish, but I don’t think I will ever be 100% comfortable with being different. I am much more of a background person than a “look at me, look at me” type person. People always look at me. People don’t just judge you on your behaviour, they judge your whole country – it is a responsibility that shouldn’t just be dismissed.

2) Making money. Turkey is (on balance) cheaper than the UK, but you still need money to survive. Work permits are like gold dust and have a lot of conditions attached to them (click here for a basic overview). Here are they ways I have seen people get by:

Option one,  have enough money to invest and live off the interest. The interest rate goes up and down but is mostly between 8 and 10%, whether or not you buy or rent your home will make a difference to how much you need, but 2500tl a month should be more than enough (as a family of four we live on half that). To get that much you need around 80,000GBP in the bank. Older people collect their pensions in Turkey and seem to live fine with that.

Option two, set up you own business. It is easier to get a work permit if you do this as you are creating jobs not taking them away. I can’t give any advice here really, as entrepreneurship is not my thing. In fact it scares me. I am a big fan of 9 to 5 jobs. However if you do want to do this, and there is a gap in the very full market place, good luck to you.

Option three, commute. Some people, usually in contract industries eg. electricians, builders etc, fly back to the UK for work while the rest of the family lives in Turkey.

Option four, online freelancing. Work which can be done anywhere in the world on a computer doesn’t count as illegal-work provided you are still paying taxes in another country and meeting that other countries minimum residency requirements.

Option five, go seasonal. In Fethiye companies recruit during the spring for the tourist season. They need: hosts, secretaries, beauty-workers, and TEFL qualified teachers. Don’t work for anyone who doesn’t provide a work permit, being deported is no joke. Be qualified before you come.

So those are the main disadvantage, or “things to seriously consider” before coming here, but what about the advantages? I have already said how happy I am that the kids are growing up bilingual. Here are a few other things I like:

Drug and drink problems exist here, but to a much lesser extent. There isn’t a culture of drinking to get drunk. There are very few gangs. Kids are kids for much much longer.

People are poorer. You don’t have to buy your kids every gadget going just because their friends have it. In my village some of the kids only have one pair of shoes. Family time is valued. Riding bikes and kicking a football are the way to entertain yourself. Older children are expected to take an active interest in younger ones.

We have a three bedroomed, two floor, flat. It is on a complex with a huge garden and a swimming pool. It is five years old (but we were the first people to live in it). We paid less than £30,000 for it

I have a few really good girl friends who totally get the whole married-to-a-Turk thing.

For nine months of the year the weather is perfect.

We can afford to have a good quality of life on much less money and spend much more time with the kids.

That’s actually a pretty short list, but it kind of covers the essentials: family, security, safety. I don’t know if we will stay here forever. I kind of want to try living in the States for a while (I’m a citizen), but if we didn’t it would be more on my list of “what ifs” rather than “huge life regrets.” I am happy here in Fethiye. If we did move away for a while, I would want to come back. It feels like home. If you are really considering moving here, I’d say do it! But don’t burn your bridges back until you’ve been here for at least three years or so...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thoughts on sexism.

I was just reading an article about sexism. It's a decent read in my opinion. Basically it gives examples of high profile people who have been sexist in public - the most recent major offence being the whole "Andy Murray was the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years" thing - you know the claim that is now filling my facebook news feed with pictures like this:

However the most interesting part of this article for me, were the comments underneath. I love it when an article gets a whole heap of comments - you get a real sense of where the world is on these issues (and by "world" I mean the demographic who reads whatever newspaper the article is in, there is obviously a vast difference between the type of comments you get on a Daily Mail story, to those on one from The Guardian. The article in question is from the Independent, which is middle of the road-ish.)

Unsurprisingly enough the comments swung in two different directions "Yes the author's right, men should grow up;" and "Come off it, the situation isn't that bad" / "Men are different to women, accept it." As a side note, I do actually agree that in general men are different to women, I just don't think that you can stereotype away opportunity - even if the majority of women don't want careers as bricklayers, even if the majority of men don't want careers as nannies, there shouldn't be any problem when some of them do. And as a second related side note, I watched this video this week about the first woman to run the Boston marathon, I think most people these days would find the race organisers attack on her (mid way through the marathon) surprising / shocking / unnecessary, which is a good sign that we have moved on in the last forty years.

Anyway, the comment I found most interesting was the one asking for with examples of sexism against men (with the premise there aren't many) - but for me it is easy, way too easy to point to some: The Simpson's tops my list, followed by Family Guy, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Chat shows like Loose women which have that tut-tut-you-know-men-are-useless vibe to them. A vibe I see echoed all the time in too many women when they chat about their husbands'. I see it in children's books like The Bernstein Bears - men portrayed as dopey, clumsy, thoughtless, macho. It's a less direct form of sexism. It's often very funny. A kind of worming-it's-way-into-your-consciousness type of thinking that you barely notice. Most of the listed shows are created by, and scripted by men - I don't know what that says about the situation, if men are being sexist about themselves does it just count as irony?  You know like when Chris Rock does his stand up shows and uses words to describe black people that I can't even think about typing without feeling deeply uncomfortable, but his whole (99.9% black) audience finds hysterical?

Turkey has a sexist culture. Men are surprised when women do well. It is an insult to tell a man he is "acting like a woman" (a grown up version of "you're crying like a little girl") In the last decade I have never seen a female: refuse collector, builder, painter, plumber, electrician, bus driver, fisherman etc etc here. Excuses for rape are treated as a hell of a lot more valid than they are in the West. Domestic violence and honour-killing are both subjects I have seen on TV dramas, not as a shock factor, but as a general plot device. I could give plenty of examples from my own home life, but I don't want to start my day by depressing myself. If you want to read about how my marriage works click here. On the upside, Turkey is not sexist like real Arab countries are, here is a classic example from the wonderful Saudi Woman's Weblog. Turkey is not as close to creating an equal society as the West, but it has the advantage over countries-to-the-right-of-it that every so often it actually acknowledges there is a problem.

I'm not sure I really have a point here. Sexism is two sided and it's everywhere. Women are worse off. The whole knocking-people-down-to-make-yourself-look-better thing sucks. But at the same time there is not a healthy balance, it needs redressing. I don't feel guilty about finding The Simpson's funny, I don't want to feel guilty about it. My hope is in my children, that I can teach them a better way of loving the world they are in. And my hope is with children like this who despite all the odds really do exist:

Update: came across this video, love it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

5 months of sun.

This morning I logged on to facebook and was greeted with about ten different status updates regarding the weather. Rain is predicted, and everyone is very excited. I don't know if it will actually materialize, but currently it is wonderfully cloudy.

The idea of too much sun was an alien concept to me until I was 14. That was the year we took a trip to China. The thermometers never went above or below 39 degrees c (because if they went above the workers would get a government mandated holiday) but I'm pretty sure the majority of the time it was above that. There was at least 90% humidity so it certainly felt hotter. Born in Britain, the land of drizzle, and despite summers spent in Upstate New York I wasn't used to that kind of heat. I remember smearing my whole body in deodorant in an effort to be cooler (doesn't work by the way.) I promised myself I wouldn't complain about the cold again. I kept that promise until very recently when so many years in Turkey finally took there toll on me - I've adapted. I am still wearing sweaters when visiting tourists aren't bothering to put on shirts anymore. When I visit the UK, even in midsummer I spend at least the first week shivering. Which is nowhere near as bad as Rafey, my youngest, - his lips actually turn blue. I would prefer to visit in winter - at least then the difference in temperature is not so great and we don't look like a family of idiots wrapped up in coats whilst everyone else is in T-shirts and flip flops, but of course there is no school holiday and so no opportunity.

Whenever I do visit the UK people illogically but regularly greet me with the question "why didn't you bring some sun back with you?" There are so many reasons why this is a dumb question it is hard to answer concisely. I usually settle for a weary snigger, my standard response to unfunny-not-quite-jokes I've heard a thousand times before. What I really want to do is grab the person by the shoulders, stare hard into their eyes, and by some kind of magical process of transference make them really understand what living in a hot climate is like. Stifling comes to mind first - we aren't holiday makers, life doesn't revolve around getting a tan. It is simply too hot to let the kids out for the majority of the day. Ever been at home with a grouchy cooped up kid? I've got two, and the summer holidays last 3 months.

There is a point in July when it is just so hot that if you leave the house your eyeballs feel like they are drying out. Weird in a bad way. You hang out laundry and as you touch the cool cloth you seriously contemplate putting it on wet - a pointless longing as within half an hour it will be bone dry. You feel like you are a bad parent all the time because hugging your child between the hours of 9 and 5 is so uncomfortably hot you'd really rather not do it. You consider the practicalities of going out with a packet of frozen peas in your knickers (a nappy bum no-no.) When you see someone watering the garden you are filled with a desperate longing to lie under the hose pipe. Its not just that clothes feel uncomfortably hot, your very flesh is too much. There is not enough ice cream in the world. I to the market the other day, I was fine, not too hot, but the British holiday makers surrounding me were in pain - bright white flesh, burning red cheeks, so much sweat they looked like they were melting. I guess I have acclimatised more than I realise.

And unless you have experienced it  - seriously contemplated keeping your flip flops in the freezer, marvelled that all your laundry is dry before the second load has finished spinning - you just can't get it. Summer days in Fethiye are not like summer days in England - if you want sun like that visit in April, or October, or even November. This sounds like I am complaining, but I'm not exactly - I don't waste my time wishing away the heat. I've managed to stop myself actively dreading July and August. It is more I'd just like people who don't live here to get it a bit more, to appreciate that although their weather might be pretty miserable, it is rarely debilitating. And when it is it is a freak occurrence not an annually scheduled event.

Update: Apparently it rained in the next village over, it did not rain in mine. There are still a few clouds, so I still have hope.

Update 2: Other status updates from the UK include a lot of people excited that their thermometers are going to hit 25 degrees celsius. I think that was the weather in March here, I'm pretty sure I was still wearing a sweater. Keep hydrated people!

Update 3: I realise you are not supposed to measure the temperature in the actual sun, but as it is impossible to wander around only in the shade, and so "in the sun" is what the weather actually feels like, I thought I would anyway. The top number is the time, the middle number is the current temperature, the bottom number is the day's maximum temperature. The thermometer was on the balcony:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer holiday.

We are home at last after a perfect holiday to visit my in laws. It was one of those holidays where everything goes well, everyone is relaxed, and to my very great relief there was enough of a breeze to allow us to leave the house almost anytime we wanted. Still very hot though - hot enough that I had my hair cut - 40 cms (18 inches) gone. I look somewhere in between princess Diana and a St Trinians girl.

My in laws summer in Sarimsakli, a beach side village near Ayvalik ( a beautiful old Greek town where you can catch a ferry to Lesbos,) about two hours up from Izmir. There is a fair amount to do there - during the season - a daily night market, an air field with tour aeroplanes (the sort you'd take panoramic photos from), water sports you-can-do-attached-to-a-speed-boat, horse and cart rides (we actually did this, I didn't take a photo, everyone knows what a horses ass looks like and if you don't you aren't missing out - but the actual experience was both fun and charming,) a trip up the hill to "the devils foot print" - a place where there is an indentation in a rock reportedly the devil setting foot on the land - people make wishes there: an idea I find most unappealing. One of our favourite things to do was to sit and eat ice cream at night on the prom - the people watching is a hilarious riot of Eastern European fashion mistakes. In Ayvalik you can just wander and look at the beautiful crumbly Greek houses, take a boat trip to the island or Cunda (best calamari ever at Nessos restaurant), or a longer boat trip to Lesbos (Greece.)

I am not much of a photographer (I am far to forgetful to actually get my camera out of my case until the last day) - I am really regretting not managing not to get some shots of the five stalls spaced at 10 meter intervals up a hill, selling lama toys (and honey) we passed on our road trip, but here are some of the highlights for us...

 The woman selling corn out of a giant corn on the cob.

 The kebapci with a fake sheep, I thought it was to remind people where their food came from, but H took it as a sign that anything you bought there would taste as fake as the sheep itself.

This beautiful truck that has been converted to a 24 hour diner.

This unique dummy advertising tattoos, the other side of his head has a felt tip tattoo. 

 The electricity station all being painted to look like houses.

And the magic of early morning haze making the boats fly.

Friday, June 7, 2013


It is hard to know what to write this week. If you aren't aware of what is happening in Turkey google it. It makes everything else seem less important. Fethiye remains peaceful and safe. You are as safe as you ever are to travel here.

We are starting to gear up for summer - the children finish school next Friday for three long months of holidays. I'm pretty happy about this. I genuinely like having the boys at home. Hero is heading off on this camp it looks like an amazing experience. And by amazing I mean he will enjoy the tree climbing and rafting no end, and I am so so glad I don't have to watch! We also have to make a decision on whether Rafey is ready to progress to the first class. He is not an academically minded kid, and proper school is really hard work. He has also had some speech difficulties. After one year in the pre-school he is much improved, but not perfect. It might be better to give him another year doing easy things than push him to go further when he is not really ready-ready. This summer I will be trying to help him learn to read, if he manages we will let him go into year one. If not we will have a big palaver on our hands trying to stop him.

This made me laugh a lot. Screen shots of amusing captions on TV

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Yesterday my brother-in-law had to close his shop doors and hide. He thought he was going to have to spend the night there on the shop floor. Instead he managed to make a run for it and got a lift with a passing stranger close-ish to his home. The riots have come to Ankara. Tear gas was fired, and protesters tried to run away through his shopping centre. There were no buses, no taxis - the downtown district was effectively in a bubble.

Here in Fethiye there have been peaceful protests, regularly scheduled, and only turned back by the police when they got to close to the AKP Party (the government) headquarters. But we will not be going into town today. The children are dissapointed. The circus is in town and we have tickets. However no matter how peaceful things may currently be, it takes one small spark of over-enthusiastic policing, or one tiny match of grieved protester for things to change.

I don't know what I feel about it all. The pictures of streets carpeted with tear-gas canisters are disturbing. But the fires and the rage of the people are disturbing too. I don't think Erdogan (the prime minister) is all bad - Turkey has a debt free, rapidly growing economy - but I am not so keen on his rather controlling attitude. I would prefer finances to be spent on alleviating inner-city school class sizes of 60+ rather than a new airport. But I don't actually know how government finances work.

I will not be joining in the protests. I am far too ill-informed. This is not my country - if I don't like how things are run I should get out. But I am glad the the Turkish people have found a voice, that they are standing up for what they believe. It is their country and my hopes are that they will be allowed  express their opinions.

We wait and see what Monday will bring.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let's be better than that.

I just found out Dawn French got divorced. I'm in shock, and by "shock" I mean "more than averagely surprised," I've not been hospitalised or anything. I'm not sure why I am so surprised - she's one of the celebrities I feel like I know. I love her confidence, her humour, her multicultural, long-lasting marriage. Now I feel confused. I am regularly confused about something, but it's not a state I relish. Her marriage has ended, she's remarried, she's lost weight... what? 

I think perhaps I find her having lost weight a little more disturbing than her having got divorced. Marriages end, it takes two people to make them work, and sometimes they just don't. But with dieting... that's a personal decision. And to be honest it is usually a negative one, or at least the process feels quite negative.  I mean does anyone ever really want to diet? You don't think "Yay! I am morbidly obese, I can change my whole life, and protect my health by losing weight!" you think "I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this. I can't do this. This chocolate is what's killing me. Why am I like this? Why am I such a failure?" 

I guess the issue I have is that I find it so very sad when people can't see how awesome they are and feel like they have to change themselves to become closer to some stereotypical idea of beauty. As it stands, I am the only person I know who has ever gone on a diet without beginning the process feeling ugly, or even slightly ashamed at my extra kilos. You can read about how I got to that place here if you want.  I know there must be other people out there who view themselves not just with acceptance but positively but I don't know them. 

One of the expats who vacations on my complex gifted me a load of magazines this week. They are old. I think the newest is from 2011. Not that it makes any difference to me. The only time I read those semi-trashy, celebrity, "real life" magazines, is when someone gives them to me. I don't follow those types of stories on the news. I might watch them on TV if  a) my scathing-of-popular-culture-husband was out, and b) we had a TV. Flicking through them there were two things I noticed. 1) I don't know anybody. Actually, that's not quite true - I had heard of Richard and Judy, but Coleen (Kai is running her ragged / wants to be healthy again;) Alex (angling for a payoff;) Kerry (hiding her love for this man;) Denise (jets off to save marriage;) and Leandro (first interview) - no idea. In some instances I don't even know the gender of these people. 2) These magazines are not positive, but are very much given to exaggeration. For example - one headline "Richard and Judy: Rocked by new family drama - Chloe reveals all" sounds like something bad has happened. As if there really has been some terrible trauma in their lives. Turn to the story - Chloe (Richard and Judy's daughter!) is happy and enjoying life, working on some show called "Dancing on Ice." The great family trauma...? They did a bit of research on their family tree and they had a dodgy ancestor. Is that news? obviously not for a serious news publication, but even for a trashy mag that has got to be stretching it. Two thirds of the front page given oven to advertising a non-story. How weird. Obviously it is total wishful thinking to want companies to only print stories if they are actually news worthy (you can't just pick and choose when you bring out you magazine after all) but surely their headlines should be a little more honest? I mean, okay they can't write "Richard and Judy experienced a non-event this week!" but maybe "Richard and Judy: surprised they have an interesting ancestor!? Chloe mentions it in passing."

Anyway, where am I going with this. I don't think that how miserably so many women think about their bodies is all the medias fault. The media print what people think, exaggerate it a bit, realise it sells, keep printing it, people keep reading it, and start to believe this is actually how the world is. One of the glossy magazines I was gifted was having a "positive ageing issue." According to their headlines you can "look better feel better live better;" eat "7 foods to keep you younger;" "take years off your body;" "rediscover your sex appeal" and enjoy some "facial creams and treatments tested just for you" (the bold typing is theirs.) None of this strikes me as positive. At least not more than superficially so. Where are the articles about mature women teaching younger ones how to appreciate themselves exactly as they are? Where is the shared wisdom from people who have really lived? Where is the article about people with marriages who have worked and lasted and still have something to talk about around the dinner table? Where is the pride that you have lived, and survived, that you have helped make a country in which women can be considered equal, in which we live longer than ever before? Where are the stories about older women who have really achieved something with their lives? Why on earth are women being completely fobbed off with articles about how to look younger?? Fine - people want to look their best, but a positive ageing feature and that is the sum total of the positivity - you can look better. WTF? Where is the afterwards - you go on a diet, you buy some new clothes, you get some good face cream and that's it. All your goals in life are fulfilled? There has to be more than that - women are better than that. Humanity is better than that. Nobody reaches old age without having loved and lost people – without understanding how transient life is and learning to value every second.

So to Dawn French - good job losing weight. But thank you for being a person who lets life shine through you. Who has had a career longer than my entire life span. Thank you for making the world a better place with your amazing ability to see truth and make it funny. Thank you for making dark places light. You have made a difference, and I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life List.

I love lists. The put the world in order. They make me feel like I just have to follow a few simple steps and my whole life will come together. They allow me to see exactly what I have achieved and indeed that I have achieved something. This week I have come across two which at first glance appear different but actually have a few similarities. The first was from one of my all time favourite blogs, called Rules for life. it includes gems such as

2. Don’t make happy people sad.
10. Don’t use the word “literally” when you really mean “figuratively”.  It literally makes me want to stab you a little but I don’t do it because that’s illegal and also because I have a very limited amount of knives.
It really is worth a click to read the whole thing, she has the perfect mix of honest and hilarious.

The second list I came across was posted by multiple friends on facebook and is called 22 things happy people do differently. Surprisingly there is the occasional cross over between the two life lists. I have to admit I am not so keen on the second list. I am surprised how many times I have seen it re-posted. It is very very positive, glass half full, find your inner zen and the world can't hurt you, type of stuff. 

Not that I don't think it's valid. I do. At least I do a bit. I have often heard people say, (you know "people" someone somewhere, a specific person not so much, more a collective memory of people saying at some point, maybe) that "there are two types of people in the world - those who see the glass half full and those who see it half empty." I'm not either of those people. I see a glass with water in. I'm slightly more optimistic than pessimistic. I have great faith in trying. But I like Plan B's. And I really really like to have worked out every potential thing that could go wrong before I commit. It drives my husband crazy. He is a massively optimistic dreamer. It is his best and worst quality. I dislike ill-thought out dreams. I like them to be backed up with a healthy dose of reality, I don't want to be the person who pisses on the parade, but I find it really hard just to get excited and not point out the flaws. I try to comfort myself with the theory that I am saving people from much larger disappointment later on, but mostly I just feel like a spoil sport.

Anyway the point of this. I think the "happy people" list, is aimed at optimistic people. I'm not convinced people who are naturally pessimistic can just hear someone say "don't sweat the small stuff" and do it. In fact there is a fair few things on that list that from past experience I am very bad at - having a list tell me I can't be happy unless I achieve these things is just setting myself up for failure. A good example would be the first up on the list "don't hold grudges" because "happy people understand it is better to forgive and forget." Hmmm. How exactly can you just forget stuff? I think bad things leave their imprint on you. It's part of what builds you into a well-rounded person. Forgiving sure, but forgetting? Are you maybe just supposed to forget a bit, but not so much that you let someone treat you like crap again? Or is it meant to be a total goldfish thing - each day is brand new and no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up with a smile? Bullshit. You learn, you get good judgement, you make better choices, you stand up for yourself. You don't forget. You don't have to hate the person who hurt you, but you don't have to just forget and trust again either. Actions always have consequences  The link is there in case you want to read what all the fuss is about - I've included a free pinch of salt.

So these things got me thinking. What would I include in my life list. The most important things I want to pass on, to live by myself, to time travel back and say to past me. This is what I came up with:

1. Right now you are the youngest you will ever look again. Enjoy it!

2. Where education is concerned try not to close any doors. You should enjoy the journey, but it's taking you somewhere. Know where.

3. Seeing both sides of an argument is great, but sometimes you need to stand up and say "No. This is wrong."

4. Remember your regrets. Learn from them. It will be incredibly hard to forgive yourself. Don't ever stop trying.

5. Your beliefs may have changed a million times, you may have been wrong a million more times. That doesn't mean you should stop having an opinion.

6. No matter how much you respect someone, don't trust blindly. Think, question, reason, make up your own mind - you have to take responsibility for you own actions.

7. The things that will keep you up at night are the times you didn't show compassion. Be kind.

8. If you don't laugh, and laugh hard at least once a week, something in your life needs changing.

9. do you remember the people who told you at primary school that "everyone is best in the world at something"? They were wrong. It is not even vaguely realistic that every single person on the planet can be the best in the world at one thing. Unless you are stupidly specific like - you are the best sister to your brother, or the best carer for your cat etc. This doesn't make you the best sister, or the best cat-carer in the world. It doesn't matter. You don't have to be the best in the world, you just have to live life to the best of you ability.

10. Having a happy life means focusing on lots of different things / people as important. It means you may never live up to your potential in any one area. This doesn't make you a failure.

11. Don't question things that bring you peace, cherish them.

12. Nobody wants to live squashed up in a box of rules and expectations. Don't feel guilty for wanting to be free, allow your family and friends to be a part of your freedom.

13. Just because you can do your clothes up, doesn't mean they fit.

14. Have faith you will eventually reach the place you long for.

15. Very few of you life decisions have been wholly negative, remember how unexpectedly positive things can (eventually) be.

16. You know life is short, don't let that panic you into rushing. You are not an under-achiever you have better timing than you think.

I'm only 30, it's a work in progress.

I nearly forgot this awesome list  I saw a month back on Turkey with stuff in's blog. It has a lot of short but coherent life lessons. I'm surprised how goal orientated a lot of my list is, I guess that is my current preoccupation so that's why!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Trust and Lies.

I've noticed recently, that I seem to lie to my kids a lot. Here are some recent examples:

 "Mum, does this have onions in?"
Instead of saying "of course it does, it would taste crap without onions, it's always had onions in and you've been eating them for years. Ha ha."
I say "err I don't remember..."

 "Mum, where are you?"
Instead of saying "I'm in the next room blind child, I walked past you precisely five seconds ago and ruffled your hair."
I say "I'm on the moon!"

 "Mum what's this red circle with a dot in the middle of it on the pavement?"
Instead of saying "I have no idea, a workman's idea of original graffiti maybe?"
I say "It's a magic spot, and if you stand on it and say the magic words you get shot into outer space. I don't know what the magic words are though..." And consequently have to wait ten minutes every time we walk past the red spot while both children stand on it with their eyes closed and mutter "magic" words.

 "Mum, my teacher says Santa doesn't exist, it's your parents who put the presents in your stockings. Is that true?"
 Instead of saying "Look, I've got something to tell you... if I could just invent a time machine and go back and never have started this stupid lie that I'm not going to know how to get out of I would!"
I say "Santa only comes to people who believe in him, obviously your teacher doesn't" It disturbs me that I do this.

 I am naturally a really painfully honest person. The boys knew exactly where babies came from the minute they thought to ask. I am an excellent person to go clothes shopping with because I am never ever going to tell you you look good in something when you actually look like a link of sausages. I've been known to apologize to people just for thinking something bad. And yet here I am. Mired in lies. I wish I could see the future. To know if these are the things that are going to stop my children trusting me. At the moment they know (or more accurately, think they know) that I will be honest with them. I have a pretty good track record of explaining things in endless detail until I am really sure they understand.

The Santa thing is the one that worries me most. I know almost everyone does it. But that doesn't mean I had to. The children know I do their dad's stocking, that Santa doesn't come to adults. Would it be really terrible if I put off telling them the truth until they have kids of their own and have to assume stocking duty for their own offspring...??

Friday, May 10, 2013


Sometimes I worry about how my emotions work. I don't think I have standard reactions to things. I don't know if this is caused by some kind of deadening of my feelings from an overload of grief when I was young (you can read about that here if you want) or if it is simply my minds way of protecting itself from the endless horrors that happen in the world. So for instance reading the recent news stories about children who have been kidnapped, I think (not feel) how horrific they are, but I don't exactly empathise - it makes me more paranoid with the boys, I do that thing more where I see the worst case scenario in my head and panic if they are out of my line of sight for more than thirty seconds - a daily occurrence due to their love of bike riding and an inconvenient tree that obscures part of the path - but I just don't feel it when I read this stuff. When I watch the news, shouldn't I be shedding tears at the bombs in Syria? the famine in Somalia? I really don't want these things to be happening, but I'm not in anyway fired up with righteous anger / deep compassion / any other more appropriate emotion.

I was chatting with a friend the other day about that period of time after you have your first child. That bit where all the baby books (and plenty of people too) say you fall deeply, madly desperately in love with your child. Neither of us got it. What we got instead was a 110% percent knowledge of how if anything happened to these tiny perfect beings our lives would be over. It wasn't quite what either of us was expecting. It was certainly an extremely strong feeling, but not the euphoric sea of happiness we'd both been counting on.

I read this blog post about depression yesterday. It is pure genius. If you or anyone you know has severe depression read it read it read it. I do not have depression. I did suffer from it for a while, but I was one of those "lucky" depressed people whose depression is caused by an actual problem. One that hasn't been talked about for way too long. It took me a couple of years and counselling three times a week to talk through everything I needed to, but now, ten years on I can honestly say it is a memory. However I remain an occasionally "depressive" person. I have a much stronger sense of mortality than just about anyone I know. I struggle to see an end if I am sad. There are times when I just have to shut down and disappear into a trashy novel so the world doesn't overwhelm me. Sometimes I just hate to be touched - I have to give a lot of myself to the family in daily life, and sometimes my personal space can really feel like one demand to far. It's part of the reason we live by the sea. It calm me. I mean really alters me - just driving down there ı get a buzz of excitement in my tummy, if I am feeling especially down then I sit by the sea for an hour or two I can remember myself again.

The thing I have noticed recently is that stuff does make me feel, but it's not bad stuff that does so, it's happy stuff.  Below are some videos I have watched over the last few months that helped me remember I am connected to the world, I do care, I am glad these people exist - they gave me happiness in a crying with emotion way.

A wedding proposal: the love, the community, the care, just wow. My husband watched it and had the same reaction as me. The guy who made it - Isaac Lamb - did another pretty awesome one called "say yes to love".

The woman who put someone else's trash in the bin.

Some people who benefited from 'pay it forward' - you have to click on this link because I can't work out how to in-bed them if they aren't from you tube
The "life together" sequence from Disney-Pixar's UP
The reaction in the New Zealand Parliament after gay marriage was legalised.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

How to buy a house in Fethiye (and maybe the rest of Turkey too)

Turkey is one of those places where nothing is set in stone. There are laws, mostly good ones too - but when you try to find out exactly what those laws are you run in to trouble. Everyone has a different answer, and I don't just mean random people you ask, I mean even if you go to the official government department relevant to your query you can get a different answer from every person working there. So this is how we bought a house in Fethiye, if you buy a house here in Fethiye your experience maybe similar-ish. If you buy one somewhere else in Turkey it will probably only be a very distant cousin of the process I went through. Important note: we were on a budget, a very very tight one.

Step 1 The search:
 An obvious place to start your search would be google. You might type in something like "property in Fethiye," or "real estate Fethiye" - you'd get lots of hits and think you were on a roll. The problem with this is that you are only going to get results from agents. As with most every country in the world, it is cheaper to buy from an actual person - check out Sahibinden - this link will take you through to the English version of the site. "sahibinden" means from the owner - some of the house are, some aren't. The real estate agents have the bonus factor that a lot of them can speak some vague semblance of English. If you go directly to the owner you will almost certainly need someone Turkish to speak for you. This may sound daunting, but here's the thing if you are wanting to move to Turkey you need to get used to things being in Turkish. Everything is. You can pay for translators, you can make some friends at a bar and get them to help you out, you can trust to luck that there will be an English speaker around whenever you need to do something: but essentially you need a plan for dealing with life in a foreign country. This is just the first step. The bonus of doing it now is that houses from owners are often 10 to 20,000 lira cheaper than those offered by real estate agents - seriously it is worth making the effort.

Note, I haven't found estate agents distrustworthy, but I have found them to often be very poor at their jobs, you can read about that here. If you do feel safer with a real estate agent check out the views and reviews on this forum, and if you are adverse to any type of risk at all the guy who set up this forum also has an estate agency - he is by all accounts totally trustworthy and generally awesome. Husband and I did not feel the need to be ultra safe, as we trusted ourselves to spot the charlatans (more on that later.)

Alongside sahibinden, milliyet emlak is a good one to check out, though the English version often seems to have kinks in (note. if you use the google-english-translate function it converts the prices by simply swapping the TL for a pound sign - this is not accurate.) For properties being sold by English people check out the local classifieds, and the fethiye buy-sell-rent group on facebook.

A note about property in Turkey - there are a lot of new houses. New is by no means a guarantee of quality, but they sure look pretty! Every year more new houses are built, they are even prettier! This means that if you bought a new house, then want to sell it only a few years later, unless you have done magical things with it, or are in a really really good location, it will almost certainly have dropped in value. English people (apologies for the sweeping generalisation) by and large, don't get this - it took me a while to get it. Your home will eventually go up in value (provided you didn't pay silly money for it to start with) but if you are looking for a quick turnaround study the market and remember people like pretty things. Ten years is a lot more viable time frame to make money on your property. Anyway the point of this - if you buy from English people they are often pricing their properties a lot higher than a Turkish person would in the same situation,partly for this reason and partly because English people seem to end up paying more to start with. Houses are cheaper in Turkey, a lot lot cheaper than the UK, don't just settle for "wow this seems cheap!" it is but check it is a good price for Turkey, not the UK.

During the summer season house prices go up because a lot of tourists (both Turkish and foreign) are buying, the cheapest time of year is winter.

Step 2 The viewing
Surveyors are not a thing in Turkey. When a bank grants you a mortgage, they may or may not come to see the property. Sometimes they swing by and count the bedrooms, but mostly they just check the set value of you property on their computer and say how much they will lend based on that. This means you need to be the surveyor. Check the windows (often badly fitted,) check for dampness and humidity (endemic in Fethiye) - look for new paint, mould, weird smells, bring a humidity tester with you. Check to roof space - a lot of rooves leak, if it is an apartment you still need to find out about the roof because it is often considered a communal charge. Best of all ask the neighbours - find out how the drainage is, if there has been flooding etc etc. Furniture is often included in the sale price - the houses on sale are usually summer homes and people don't want to pay shipping on stuff they already have. Buying things new in Turkey is expensive. Buying things second hand is very cheap, so bear that in mind when negotiating - you are doing each other a favour.

Note: it may seem like a good idea to ask the owner why they are leaving, you could do this I guess but people lie, especially if they are leaving because the sewage pipes keep overflowing. Neighbours are a much better bet, as is the previously mentioned calis beach forum - a lot of the members are long time residents / visitors to Turkey and have the gossip on all the different apartments and areas.

You might also want to call in people to check things individually - plumbing is frequently botched, electricity boards equally frequently have too-small fuses. This group is a good place to check to find people who can help with that and generally ask questions

Once you have seen a place, ask for a copy of the Tapu - house registration document / deeds - and take it along to the council offices to be vetted. Make sure the sellers name matches the name on the Tapu. Make sure the building has building permission. This is an ongoing cheat to both Turks and foreigners who buy houses which are illegal, you can still buy them, but they should cost a lot less. You should also bear in mind that it might be possible to get house building permission, but then again it might not be. It is extremely rare to be able to build a house larger than 25% of the land size, and usually it's 15%, if it is farm land it is never more than 10% and more likely 5%. Some land it will never be ok to build on. Some the people who live on the land have been paying taxes for it and living on it, but the land is not actually "residential," - what they are actually selling you  is the right to have first refusal to buy the land when the government re-zones it to residential or tourist areas. It's dicey, but might be worth the risk if you are willing to accept that you might not be able to afford the land price later, and might lose your home at an unspecified point in the future (like paying all your rent in advance.) We considered a few properties along these lines but in the end went with a fully legal one. The land registration people will be able to tell you all the details about you house and the plot it stands on. They will also tell you if the house has a mortgage / bad debt - make sure this is paid off before you sign the land deeds or it could be transfered to you.

Another thing to check is the electric - ask to see a bill. There are several different types of electricity supply in Turkey - the two most prevalent are residential and construction. When you build a house you use construction electricity. This is more expensive. A property has to be converted to residential electricity with five years of completion. It costs a chunk of change to  do so and if you don't you face a hefty fine. Note: if you do buy a property both your water and electric meters have to be purchased from and installed by the official water and electricity companies - this can be confusing as every hardware store sells them. They are not official, they are just to help people split up bills if they divide their houses, don't get caught out, the fines are astronomical, have something insane attached to them like a 500% interest rate and are just so not worth it!

Step 3 The haggle

If you want to haggle you need to study the market. Our budget was very tight, so properties we liked and could afford were not plentiful, it took us over a year to buy. The one we eventually got  had been on the market the whole time I was searching, (and for a while before that) by the time we went to see it, the seller was very ready to drop his price. A lot of the properties are on the market for a very long time. There are a few reasons for this: sometimes people are just "trying their luck" - they don't really want to sell, but if they got their (outlandish) asking price they'd happily leave - sometimes they do and then all the prices in the area go up for a season or so before people realise it was just a fluke and come back to earth. Sometimes people got a bargain purchase and have put it straight back on the market at a higher price. There is one I keep seeing in the property pages at the moment, we looked at it when it was on for 90,000tl - someone bought it, did nothing, and it is back on for 150,000tl! But the main issue is the selling season is short, there is plenty of choice, but not plenty of customers. I don't think houses are a thing you should rush into, be honest about your last price and leave your number with the seller, they may well get back to you at the end of the summer if it hasn't sold and they are comfortable taking a lower price.

Step 4 The purchase process marathon. Inc. steps to help you not get ripped off.

Note: this is not legal advice, I am not a lawyer, consider this a part of the extensive research you should do before committing any part of your savings to property investment.

From this point on for most everything you will need: passport photos (get a stash of 20 to keep you going,) a Turkish bank account, a Turkish tax number, your passport.

If you are foreign and want to buy a property in Turkey you have to have military clearance. This takes somewhere between six weeks and six months (sometimes longer, so far as I know never shorter.) This is also the only part I did through a real estate agent. They charged me 300tl to fill in the forms and process them. I used Apple Estate and have no complaints.

This is where things get tricksy - if you are Turkish you (obviously) don't have to get military clearance and the whole buying a house process can be done in a day. Really, just a day - once your clearance is through it will take one busy morning and you'll be all done. So if you buy from a Turkish person then having to wait an indefinite amount of time to close the deal and get the full house money can be irksome to say the least. Here is how we got around it. When we bought a house the owner had a mortgage on it (buyer beware - you can sell on a house with a mortgage, and the mortgage gets transferred too - the government has plans to change this but so far as I know it hasn't been done yet.) Anyway, he was especially anxious to pay off his mortgage (frightening 10% interest rate) - so we paid it off as our deposit. In return he gave us a cheque to the value of what we had paid. Cheques are different in Turkey to the UK, they are a legally binding contract. You get them individually from the bank and they have to be witnessed, if someone tries to cash one they can not be defaulted on without legal proceedings. He also gave us the house keys. We moved in and finished the process when my clearance came through. You might want to get a lawyer to hold the cheque for you (or the seller might want this) - ours trusted us not to cash it in.

You can of course go to a lawyer and get a contract drawn up instead stating what you are paying, at what stages, when you get to take possession of the house etc. We looked into this, the lawyer wanted 300tl, but the notary who would have to stamp the contract to make it official wanted 1500tl. We found the cheque method simpler - at the end of the day if the seller got a better offer and dumped us we were sure to get our money back. Him also giving us the keys was semi-unusual, he wasn't living in the property and didn't mind us going straight in. The seller knew he'd get the rest of his money because of course we couldn't get the land deeds without his signature - and he wouldn't sign anything unless he'd been paid.

I don't know the process in the UK, I think buying a house can take 3 months or so there anyway, so maybe a British seller would be more sympathetic to the military clearance issue. I don't know what kind of deposits people usually give in the UK either, I guess if you are both British you work out your own system of trust and security how you are used to.

So once your military clearance has come through the seller has to make an appointment at the Tapu office. You need to have dask in place before you go to this. Dask is compulsory earthquake insurance. Anywhere you see the word "SIGORTA" (insurance) will do it for you - the price is set by the government, currently around 110tl. So take that, your photos, passport, tax number and go to the appointment. The seller will be handing similar documents in to. You hang about while they process this and then they give you a form with a code for going to pay the property tax - around 4% of the registered price of your house. You do this at Ziraat bank - you can go in of use the special cash machine that accepts money. It is split between the buyer and the seller, the seller pays a little more. You get a receipt, return to the tapu office, hand it all in and half an hour later they are ready for you to sign stuff. In Fethiye you need a translator present for this - the office will give you a number of one of their registered people (an English speaking friend won't do, even if you speak Turkish, as I do, you still need a translator.) They read out the details of the sale - you should already know exactly what you are getting if you have thoroughly checked the Tapu - you say ok, sign your name, and they give you your land deeds.

Note - the amount you pay for your house may be different from the council-set price written on your tapu. This is normal. Ours was almost the same but that is unusual. If (heaven forbid) your house is destroyed by an earthquake your dask insurance only covers you up to the value of the amount on your tapu. If the price is really really different - you might want to do a bit more market research, these days the price shouldn't be that much lower. You have to get the current value from the land office - whatever is written on the current tapu is out of date within a year.

This was my experience and how we dealt with it - if you have more information, have done a blog post on the same subject please tell me / link it in the comments.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thinking About Headscarves.

This morning a friend posted this link to a blog post about living as a headscarf wearer in Izmit, Turkey. Basically she feels marginalised in Turkey because she is unable to go into some places while wearing a headscarf (some restaurants don't allow people wearing them to eat there, you can't enrol in university, work in parliament and other government organisations with one.) She has experienced people being deliberately rude to her - flicking her headscarf and asking if she would wear it in Britain (she is a UK national, Muslim convert.)

A fair few people commented on my friends link to this post - everyone hated the rudeness, but people also brought up legitimate concerns about security where burka wearers (the full shebang, with face covered too) are concerned. I don't mean 'they could have a bomb under there!' sure they could, but just as easily you could wear a bomb like a fake pregnancy. It's more stuff like schools being unable to identify exactly who is collecting a child from a school gate, or women using someone else's passport to go to another country and trusting in their anonymity not to be discovered.

Nobody commented on the headscarf ban in government buildings, other than to say - if you want a democratic country the religious need to be free to wear what they want. In theory I agree with this. I am very pro democracy, very pro human rights, but I am not sure lifting the headscarf ban would be pro human rights. In the West of Turkey, yes. Women are freer. They make real choices. The ones I have spoken to wear them because they believe it is part of their religion and it makes them feel closer to God to do so. It is their own free choice to do so. In the East of Turkey however, the government actively has to make parents send their daughters to school. There is a culture of thought that there is very little point in educating a girl. Some people even go so far as not to register their female children so they will never be in the system and not have to go to school. Would women like that really be free to choose whether or not to wear a headscarf? Having said that they are probably not really free to choose now - at least if you were allowed to wear a headscarf anywhere you wanted they would have a slightly higher chance of further education and better jobs.

I am not really sure what I think. I dislike seeing young girls (anyone under 15 or 16, but you see them as young as 9) wearing headscarves. [Brief pause while I digress] I don't think you are born as part of a religion (whether or not a particular religion claims you, as is the case with Judaism.) I think you are born a baby. Your parents may or may not have religious beliefs, that a child may or may not follow. My husband and I are different. We teach the boys about religion in the third person: Muslims believe this, Christians believe that, Jews believe, Buddhists believe, Sikhs believe etc. We do actually both have beliefs. When the kids are older we both hope they will decide to follow a religion, but that they will do it out of a sense of personal conviction. I in particular never want my children to have to wonder if they believe something because they have always been taught it, or if they believe something because it is true. I don't think science can conclusively prove or disprove the existence of God. I think you can only prove it to yourself as an individual though experience. You can not brainwash a person into faith and I don't want to try. Anyway, the point of this digression, I think children are too young to choose their religion, wearing a headscarf is most certainly a sign of religious affiliation. Not only that but it is a sign of womanhood. A nine year old is not a woman and should not be looked at as one, in any way ever.

The area we live in probably has a 50-50 split of women wearing (or not) a headscarf. You see groups of teens hanging out some with their heads covered some not. I have never felt discriminated against because of my lack of headscarf. I think all the locals, both expat and native share a common sense of shocked amusement at the tourists who wander around town either in bikinis or shirtless - as an aside I was more shocked by the shirted guy with just speedos underneath than the ones with shorts but no shirts, good to know! Yesterday I was in town and it was about 35 degrees (95f) - women wearing headscarves and full long sleeved coats kept walking past me. They were melting. Their husbands were standing next to them in shorts and t-shirts. And that irritated me. Why would a religion dictate you have to wear such weather inappropriate clothing? I find it equally dumb in the UK when you see women in mid-winter out for the night in strappy tops and mini-skirts. A choice dictated by peer-pressure and culture.

I guess in a way I am lucky, I experience very little peer, cultural, or religious pressure (although enough to occasionally tie me up in knots.) If you do live in a society with these thing present, is it possible to make choices without those pressures dictating your choices and still be accepted? I'm not sure, but that is the type of democracy and freedom I am in favour of.

Image credit to the cartoonist Malcom Evans via the society pages

Note. in my town plenty of people wear headscarves, they do not wear burkas (as pictured above,) the only people I have seen wearing a burka were tourists.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Know You've been in Turkey a Long Time When...

How to know when you have passed the point of no return and 'gone native.'

You actually feel more comfortable with slippers than without

You find 'animals in the home' a surprising concept

You get mad if people ask "are you from Russia?" rather than "where are you from?"

You keep un-opened milk in the cupboard not the refrigerator.

On holidays abroad, the colour and size of courgettes and cucumbers are so different from what you are used to you struggle to be sure if they are labelled correctly.

You still wear a sweater when it's 25 degrees celsius  (80f)

Chickens wandering around in urban areas no longer surprise you.

Just the word bacon is exciting, as are packet spice mixes, and cadbury chocolate.

You plan sentences in your head before you say them.

You think minced meat (ground beef) is "ready food."

You automatically remove your shoes when entering a home.

You start to view cars as a luxury item.

You notice people who do not have Mediterranean colouring.

You return to your country of origin and have to remind yourself to make eye contact with the opposite sex.

An unknown man saying good morning to you on the street is confusing, mildly threatening, something to think about.

You find "tourist clothes" both culturally and weather inappropriate.

The words "son fiyat" fill you with excitement.

You know what to do with pekmez.

You can find a passable substitute for just about any unobtainable ingredient in any Western recipe.

Squat toilets make you groan but not run.

When you visit family, you find the price of everything unbelievably expensive.

You stop buying chocolate in green wrappers and expecting it to be minty.

On trips abroad you are surprised how few people smoke.

If someone brings you a plate of food, you never return the plate empty.

As a parent, you are thrown into confusion on holidays because the kid shouting "Mummy!" is not yours.

You are surprised when people understand you on the first time of asking.

You cook 'Turklish' food.

When in a foreign supermarket you are weirded out a) because the fruit department has no smell, b) because none of the available fruit is in season, c) because pork is not in a special section labelled with giant warning signs / very very very expensive.

You stop thinking men holding hands is an indication of their sexuality.

You don't hear the mosque-man singing any more.

If you go to a restaurant and order fish, you are surprised if it turns up and doesn't actually look like a fish.

The people abroad you feel closest to are those who update their status on facebook most frequently.

You think the supplements in a Sunday newspaper are the best bit.

You stop being surprised when people consider yogurt a condiment.

Two men fighting in the middle of the main road? maneouver around them and keep on driving. Don't bother looking back.

If you live in the south - sunny weather and hot water become inextricably linked in your mind.

When new arrivals complain about Turkey you a) can give them a positive for each of their negatives, b) wish they would go back to where they came from.

When the adverts come on TV the remote is already in your hand to turn the volume down.

You have stopped wondering why people keep a small chair in their shower.

Pasta served with a basket of bread? why not!

You are unsurprised when it takes twenty forms and visits to five different government departments to do anything official. You have a stash of at least twenty passport photos.

Lawns are something remarkable.

Whether from a builder, a doctor, or a dentist you never trust the first diagnoses.

You accept dust balls appearing one day after vacuuming as a fact of life.

You are deeply shocked if you see underwear in full view on a washing line.

You realise that not being able to understand loud speaker announcements from the village intercom and from passing vans is in no way a reflection on your ability to speak Turkish. The locals can't understand them either.

You tell new Turkish friends you are "waiting for them" to come over. You know you will never see them again.

The idea of mixing water, salt, and yogurt to make a bubbly drink, no longer seems unfathomably weird.

You stop calling somewhere other than where you live 'home.'

If you really thought about it, you'd describe yourself as an immigrant not an expat.

Note: I wrote an article in a similar vein a few years back for the newspaper Today's Zaman. If you want to read it, click here.