Monday, 30 July 2012

Bikini shots and sunsets.

Those of you who have me on Facebook may have been expecting an onslaught of hundreds of pictures from my recent adventures in Turkey. Knowing what I'm usually like with my camera, you'd be forgiven for being surprised there isn't a stream of shots from every angle in every manner of location.

But the thing is, I was travelling on my own. And let me have this one vain complaint- there's no one to take photos of you when you're travelling alone.

This is except for the handful of pitying strangers who offered to take a snap of me in front of some fancy scenery, which I see as less than a thankful habit of other tourists. Pictures of me standing awkwardly with a beach behind me aren't going to be flattering. The best pictures of people aren't the ones where they're told to stand and say cheese by a well meaning American tourist. It's not like I could pull a face or try to be funny- you don't want the stranger holding your camera to think you're mental, after all. So all of my photographs taken from Turkey are of scenery- and I'm aware that no one is interested in seeing my amateur shots of sweeping landscapes, so I'm sparing you. You're welcome.

The slightly more self-concious reason is that of the few pictures taken of me by friends I made while I was away, about 90% of them are of me in a bikini. I'm not particularly shy about this- I'm fairly happy to let a few of them be seen by my friends (and readers of this blog!). I just don't want to be that girl with an entire photo album of her in a bikini. It's a bit self indulgent, and also implies I spent the last three weeks wearing next to nothing, which isn't the case. 

So instead, I'm saving my Facebook timeline from most of the pictures. I've uploaded a handful, including some from Sam's birthday night out I went on the day I got back to Yorkshire, but that's your lot. Anyone (i.e. no one) hoping to be able to browse through, I'm sorry. I can imagine this is difficult for you, but you'll be okay in the end.

The Yorker Archives; Jubilee: a review

Shelley Harris’ first novel is about a photograph. The one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second it took to take, the events leading up to it and the lives of its subjects after it. A delicately bittersweet account of childhood and of the undercurrents of racism in 1977 British suburbia, Jubilee is a summer-reading must have.

We follow the life of Satish Patel, the introverted cardiologist who, amongst other demons he wearily faces, is horrified when the photograph resurfaces. Considered a national treasure, the picture taken on Jubilee day has a darker significance for Satish, and is a poignant reminder of the cruelty of adults and children alike.

As the reality of the pictures deeper meaning is slowly unfolded throughout the chapters, we're given an intimate portrayal of the world as Satish saw it as a child and an immigrant in the 1970s. Often heartbreakingly funny, and at times, just plain heartbreaking, Jubilee is full of thoughtful nostalgia and an effortless charm.

Glancing between eras; we meet all characters before and after the infamous picture is taken. Aligning past and present so seamlessly allows us to see if, and how, the actions of the past do indeed affect the behaviours of our future. As Satish reassures himself "we are all better than the worst thing we've done", readers can contemplate a sense of justice in how the lives of characters map out.

The narrative is subtle, and the murky topic of racism is dealt with with such a finesse that it doesn't seem to impede on the innocence of the children we are reading about. The way Harris writes about childhood is a genuine, realistic interpretation of how childrens' relationships work- the hierarchey of friendships, the relevance of race and age, the attacking and protecting of each other.

In exploring the story of this photo- this one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second- Harris masterfully deals with an entire society's attitudes towards immigrants, and shows the beginning of a change in those attitudes in the coming-of-age of it's children.

A surprisingly light read considering the sadness of some of its themes, Jubilee is a beautifully written and moving story about innocence. It's characters, relationships and plot line are so simple yet so plausible that you can't but help admire Harris' style- and to certainly look forward to a second novel.

Friday, 27 July 2012

My Turkish boyfriends.

I have been attracting a lot of male attention while I've been in Turkey. I'm not suddenly a goddess (lol), I'm just a tourist wandering around with a pocketful of lira. And that, in the Turkish tourism industry, is enough to get you a few marriage proposals, if not a free Fanta.

The two stand-out creepy encounters for me have been Mamut, the shoulder-gripping waiter, and Captain Tom, the moustached boat trip guide. In between the dozens of attempts of flirting that are supposed to coax me into buying a meal/pair of Roy Bans sunglasses/a yacht, these two men really take home the trophy for pushing "sexy sells" over the limit.

Mamut is the fella that made me the paper rose. Regina had taken me back to his restaurant for some chai, and she immediately rebuked him for his overly personal way of talking and touching me. Instead of backing off, like most normal humans would do when chastised by a mother figure, he stepped up his game. He didn't want me to think he wasn't being genuine. He wanted me to think he was sincerely in love with me.

Now. I'm no expert, but I'm going to say it takes more than a rose made out of a napkin and a wink as he passes me my drinks at a restaurant one time to fall in love with someone. This didn't stop old Mamut though. He sat practically on my knee and stared into my eyes. "I want to know your soul" he said. "I want you to know mine".

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, I tried to avoid eye contact. But, no. His face was so close to mine that there wasn't much else to look at. There was a lot of face on face action going on. I was terrified he was going to kiss me, or worse, sneeze. "I have a boyfriend" I muttered, wrenching my hands free of his clutch. Without missing a beat; "Your boyfriend isn't here" . True, I thought. He doesn't exist, so he's definitely not here.

Creepy, yes, but not even in the same league of our mate Captain Tom. That's his name by the way. First name Captain, second name Tom. It's a good job he has a boat really, otherwise he'd sound a bit bloody stupid.

Captain Tom did those boat excursion days out, and I'd been listening to his sales pitch one evening when considering booking a trip, when he took a turn from salesman to love interest in a movement so swift I'd barely noticed it happening. Politely declining his offer to take a private moonlit cruise, smoking shisha and touring the bays of Turkey, I almost tripped over myself trying to scuttle off. He told me the tour started at half eight tomorrow morning. He refused to let me pay for the ticket, but I insisted. You don't want to owe anything to a man that's just casually tried to sail off with you in plain sight of all passers by

The next morning, having been comforted and reassured by my friends and family, ("Have you seen Taken, Farrah? This is Taken." ) I set off to do some minor espionage before my trip. I'd wait (behind a bush, presumably) to see if there were any other customers getting on the boat. If not, I'd scarper. 20 lira to not be kidnapped is a bargain, really. In any case, it didn't work, because as I was trying to find a suitable place to stake out the boat, Captain Tom saw me and waved me over for some tea in a nearby cafe.

Whilst lecturing me on "living in the moment" and "don't worry about boyfriends, you're on holiday" and so on, I quietly sipped my chai and wondered what he'd do if I just got up and ran right now. Thankfully, doing a runner wasn't necessary, as a family of six called and asked for directions to the boat.

The relief! A family! You can't be kidnapped on a boat full of tourists from Somerset! Freedom! From that point I took a uninhibited attitude to Captain Tom. I don't have to be extra nice to you in case you steal me now. Ha! I immediately took advantage of this by pretending I had a gay sibling when he was midway through a lengthy explanation of the "disgusting" gay couple he'd had on board once. I've been making up a boyfriend all week, a gay brother was no issue. Doing my bit for the LGBTQ community, really. You should have seen his face. Backtracking in your second language is much more awkward. That'll teach him to be so openly homophobic.

Having taught Captain Tom a thing or two about berating people's sexuality, I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of my day. The boat trip was lovely, by the way. Got on well with the Somerset family, and Captain Tom's creep levels dwindled. Afterwards, on the way back to the hotel, I passed my favourite waiter Mamut. He wanted to know why I didn't wait for him. Fuck this, I thought, I've nearly been kidnapped once today, I'm not having it again. Instead of politely coming up with an excuse and trying to shrug off his embrace, I writhed out of his grip and told him straight- "Because I didn't want to", I said, all but shouting, and stalked off.

Later, in a restaurant that evening, a waiter wrote his number on the back of my bill. If this trip has taught me anything, it's that if I'm ever in need of a husband, Turkey wouldn't be a bad place to start looking for one.

This is what not being kidnapped looks like- on board Captain Tom's boat.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Haggling and heckling- my paisley green trousers.

Tuesday is Market Day in Fethiye. I love markets; they're the most exciting way to see a town in action. People arguing about that extra couple of pounds. Stallholders competing for custom by shouting out the prices of their products, money being exchanged, flurries of colour and smells and sounds. Everyone seems to be having fun. Bartering, haggling and heckling. Handfuls of spices, sheaths of fabrics. Handmade trinkets and "Off-The-Lorry" pots and pans. Ugh, I love it. So much so that I resent shopping anywhere but markets when I'm abroad.  

Up early (to catch the worms), I zipped into the market area to immerse myself in it all. I'd been saving my lira for today,  and was prepared to spend every last penny. First buy was a handful of peaches from the food bit, to keep me going through the beating heat and rush of the day. 

Okay. I'd never ever normally do a fashion related post. Seeing as everything I own is from H&M, you'd be better off browsing their website than having a look at which t-shirt&jeans/skirt combo I've gone for today. But I'm riding on a bit of a high right now, so you'll have to excuse me. And with all due respect to H&M, I don't think they've ever designed a pair of trousers as exciting as the ones I've just bought. Plus, in my defence, I'm not sure this counts as fashion.

Paisley! Green! With red bits!
Not sure when I plan on wearing them- they might raise a few eyebrows in a syntax lecture- but how could anyone feasibly resist a pair of trousers like this? (Don't answer that, please. I love them too much.) Even the guy selling them couldn't quite believe my delight at finding these treasures. They remind me a little of the Peru-pants Max Wartelle and Sam Graham came back wearing from South America this time three(?!) years ago. Utterly useless aesthetically, but wholly lovable. 

More, ahem, conservative buys included a pair of coral pink shoes, a hipster tie-die dress that I'm going to get Nana Kelly to alter, and another handmade cushion cover. A few hours later, I rushed back and bought the same pair of shoes in a different colour. I had honestly intended on buying souvenirs for my loved ones, but I got swept up in the paisley-green excitement of the day and forgot about my nearest and dearest. Sorry mum. Sorry friends. You get to see me dressed in those badboys as a booby-prize.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Faith in humanity: Restored.

Considering my ordeal the other day, I think I can be forgiven for having a slightly eschewed image of the kindness of others. Seeing my ex-boss' cold stare as I lugged my suitcase out of the door and waited for a taxi cemented "People can be bastards" right at the forefront of my Lessons Learned Archive.

Yet, my new maxim has already, thankfully, been proved wrong.

The other night, I arranged to meet with Regina. She was leaving Fethiye for Ankora, and this would be the last time we had the chance to meet (possibly forever) so I was keen to get one more round of backgammon in. She's the only one who's ever let me win. She arrived at our meeting point, and slightly breathlessly told me that a German couple who had been staying at the hotel I'd briefly worked at were waiting in a car around the corner for us. They'd offered to take us for a meal, if we would like to.

So I spent the evening with three Germans, talking about the nuances of English (you try explaining to three non-English speakers why we say "iron" the way we do) and gossiping about the hotel. They had been horrified to hear what had happened to me, and insisted on paying for all of my drinks and food by way of saying they were sorry for not helping me out sooner. This was to be considered their "tip" to me for all the work I'd done at the hotel. I was charmed. What wonderful people.

We waved Regina off on the night bus, and I promised that if I was ever in Germany, I'd make sure to arrange to meet her again. (I'll stay in touch Regina, don't worry!). The couple drove me about a mile away from my hotel because they didn't understand my English directions, gave me their business card and asked me to keep them updated.
Me and the Greeks, all kicked outta Kaya. 

The next day, I grabbed the dolmus to Kayakoy. I'd thought about skipping this day trip out, seeing as it's frighteningly close to the ol' demon hotel, but pushed that thought out as ridiculous and looked forward to wandering around the ghost town.

It's very creepy. Completely empty, except for those chilling sheep cries that sound like trapped souls calling out for forgiveness. In the 1920s, thousands of Greeks were forced out of this village. Just imagine that for a second. One day, you're having your breakfast, dropping the kids off at school, knocking up some shelves for your front room; next,you're packing up everything and leaving. Not just you though, the entire street. All of your neighbours, at the same time.

The 17th century church was particularly eery. That used to be a place of real significance. People got married there, worshipped there. They mourned their dead and celebrated the newborns. This was a place that was important to almost every villager at some point in their lives, and all that was left of it now were the bare bones of its architecture and a few tourists wandering around. I was sat imagining all the years of prayers that had happened here, when a Scotsman and an Irishman walked into my eyeline.

I know that sounds like the beginning of a joke, but they really did; Kevin and Jerry. They asked how long I'd been sat there, I told them since the Greeks left. They said I looked good for a ninety odd year old, must be something in the water. We set off around the ghost town together, speculating what the buildings were used for and explaining what on earth "linguistics" was. Upon spotting a hotel in the distance, complete with swimming pool, one of them exclaimed "the lying bastards, we were told this was a ghost town". It's the first time I've laughed like that in weeks, and I was really thrilled to have such company.

We stopped for lunch at the entrance of the village and tested each other on our knowledge of world flags, Charlie's Angles and Manchester United players. They pointed out that me and the Greeks that once lived in Kayakoy had something in common; we'd both been kicked out by the Turkish. They told me about their lives and their families, and I told them about my little adventures and writing. They refused to let me pay my share of the bill.

Wandering back through the park, we came upon a dog. Admittidly, it was quite big- but no larger than Ralph, really. Though it was scampering about in the opposite direction to us, Kevin and Jerry quickly u-turned and hotfooted their way out of any, ahem, danger. Leaving me trailing behind. "How manly of us, leaving a young girl to that Rottweiler. When you write that up, make sure you put that we rescued you from the jaws of a wolf."

Kevin and Jerry "Are Large"

So, Kevin and Jerry, if you've managed to remember the name of this blog, thank you. For saving me from that pack of wolves/camels. I almost certainly wouldn't have any arms to type this with if it wasn't for your combined bravery. And with a slightly more genuine gratitude, thank you to both sets of couples for reminding me that not all people are bastards. Some of them are really, really lovely people.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Being alone; how a restless girl copes.

Okay. Without wanting to sound macabre, this blog post is going to be about being on my own. It's not one massive sulk, so you can all just put away your eye rolling and miniature violins. I'm in a self-inflicted solitary confinement over here, so I've had plenty of time to think this through.


The first step of being alone whilst on your travels is this strange sense of overconfidence when it comes to strangers. All of a sudden, I'm this social butterfly, befriending people from all over the world with my charm and boundless self-assurance. I don't know how it happened. It just did.

Touring Blue Bays of Fethiye :)
I went on a boat day trip thing the other day, and the relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous settings led me to casually striking up conversation with complete strangers. Dasha, the Ukranian schoolgirl, impressed me with her English and we chatted about school and university. On hearing an English accent while taking a boatside dip in the sea, I swam right up to a couple from Essex. I'm now welcome to visit them if I ever find myself in the part of Fethiye they have a B&B in, which is nice. I also braved speaking a little Mandarin to a Chinese family- which considering the last time I spoke Chinese I burst into tears, can only have been down to a surge of misplaced confidence. They more or less understood what I was trying to say, but their English skills far outshone my Chinese ones, so I was spared the mortification of singlehandedly ruining the beauty of a language. The day was a success, and I can now safely archive this unlikely bunch into the group "Met On Holiday" and move on. Woo!

Only just managing to stay upright in Saklikent Gorge.


In trying to recreate my sudden surge of social ability, I went on another day trip. Well, that's not exactly the reason. Saklikent Gorge is mindblowing- and warrants a day trip regardless of whether there's any likelihood of making new mates or not. Whatever. My friend-making skills were scaled down to zero, as no one spoke any English. In fact, I felt very conscious that I was the only person in a group of twelve who never had the faintest idea of what was going on- how long the journey would take, the price of entry, how to not fall and die in the gorge. It would have been pretty maddening, but instead, it just got boring. Not speaking to anyone frustrated me. I became sulky in the evening, having not uttered a single phrase other than "sorry, I'm English" all day. I'd read all of my books, the wifi connection was failing me, I didn't feel like going to a bar where I wouldn't know anyone and have to sit on my own. So I frowned all night instead.

I'm my own worst enemy when I get like this. Nothing anyone says can swing me out of a grump like this one. But that was irrelevant. No one was saying anything much to me at all, nevermind trying to lift my lonely spirits. So I moped around my hotel room and bitched at my friends when the wifi connection lasted long enough for me to send a facebook message (sorry, friends).  I was lonely and bored and I wanted to watch fucking Coronation Street already. Moodily, I went to bed for lack of better things to do. 


After a good telling off via email from a few friends, I decided to shut up whinging and make the most of having some time to myself. How often do you get an entire week, unimpeded by any responsibilities, unmarked by any urgencies, to do exactly what you want with? And considering how rare this week is, what better place to do it than on the edge of the Mediterranean coast? So I packed myself a little bag of pens, books, notepads and my iPod, and marched out to the dolmus station.

I spent the day writing. And I mean the entire day. I wrote things I'd intended on publishing for The Yorker, I wrote reviews of the places I'd been, I wrote things I wouldn't dream of publishing on here for fear of people actually reading them. The bemused waiter asked me if it was my diary. "Sort of", I replied, flashing a quick smile and accepting my third refill of fresh orange juice. The orange juice glasses got increasingly decorative and elaborate as my time in the cafe went on. The first glass had been simple, ice, straw, drink. By the time I left, I was getting flashing straws, umbrellas, slices of exotic fruit wedged onto the glass, fireworks. I like to think they were playing a game of "How-much-shit-can-we-put-on-her-glass-before-she-looks-up-from-her-notepad". They were probably just trying to increase the chances of a tip, but a girl can imagine.

Pen running out of ink, and myself running out of writing-steam, I popped on a water taxi back home and went for another walk along the harbour. I sat and idly watched the sun set over the bay with some fishermen, meandered back to the hotel, and had a long shower. Today's been good. This is the kind of solitary confinement I could get used to.

Sighh. I guess I can go without speaing English for a day if this is what the evening looks like. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

All quiet on the Fethiye front. Thank god.

With all the drama of yesterday slowly fading into obscurity, I figured it was about time I got round to some of this exploring lark I was so keen to do prior to being unceremoniously shown the door in Kayakoy. Having shook the last of the shakes off, I dolled up and strode out, in what I guessed to be the right direction, towards the centre of the centre.

Fethiye is stunning. It's quite difficult to justify exactly how beautiful it is without getting soppy, or sounding like I'm exagerating. To put it plainly, if I lived here, or saw this view everyday as of now for the rest of ever, I don't think I'd get bored. I wouldn't stop marvelling at how bloody pretty it is.

Fethiye bay.

York campus lake, eat your heart out.

It is a slight shame that I've come at a time of year when they're remodelling one area- the town square on the edge of the harbour. Though it hardly detracts from the beauty of the bay, it's quite an odd sensation walking along a gorgeous pier, busy looking out onto the Med, and finding yourself to have stumbled into a construction site, complete with bemused workmen who see straight through your attempts to look like you've ended up there on purpose. That aside, this has been my favourite place to go for a walk, anywhere, ever.

My paper rose!
I ate at a great restaurant overlooking the bay, Address. The staff were a touch overly attentive, but it was quite nice having someone to talk to. Travelling alone can get pretty quiet, and talking to myself in public just won't do. So the chatter was welcomed- even if they only wanted to list names of football players upon finding out I'm from Manchester. I got made a little tissue rose- for "being gorgeous" no less- and was asked to return to the restaurant after they'd all finished work, which I politely declined. My boyfriend would have been horrified, after all. I neglected to mention he doesn't exist, but that's irrelevant.

I've done more touristy things, mostly wandering around the old town looking at fabrics and spices and trinkets- I bought a gorgeous handwoven cushion- and headed back to the comfort of my air conditioned room while the sun was a its harshest. Then, a surprise visitor! Regina, of heroic fame, turned up unannounced. Delighted, we headed out for some chai, gossip, and a game of backgammon.

I suck at backgammon.
I've had the worlds longest shower, stocked up on Fanta, and have my outfit planned for the boat trip I've booked for tomorrow. Now I'm off to watch the sunset in a bar some place. I'm trying not to be smug, having seen all of your complaints about the weather in emails and on facebook/twitter, but it's really really hard. I'm not even sorry.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Being kicked out. (Or; The second thing to go wrong in Turkey)

Today, I was kicked out of my hotel. I know that immediately summons up images of me being the tourist from hell, but I didn't throw a TV out of the window or anything. I didn't even have a TV. Or a window, come to that.

YOU try keeping this path free from leaves.
Long story short, I was staying at a boutique place through this workaway scheme I've talked about. It means I got free bed and board in return for five hours work a day, five days a week. That's a reasonable commitment, and a reasonable offer, imho. Unfortunately, the hours turned out to be much longer than I'd anticipated. Anywhere between nine and twelve hours became the norm, the expected.

Up at eight, washing up, serving breakfast, cleaning the pool, hosing down the paths, gardening, lugging wheelbarrows of dead leaves and egg shells to the compost heap, nipping to the local farm to top up an empty coke can with milk, preparing rooms, incessant sweeping of leaves, and waiting up until all of the guests have returned from their wanders at gone midnight. It wasn't difficult, though occasionally strenuous in the baking sun. No, the work itself was easy. There was just so much more of it than I considered fair.

(Side note- Jack Smith, on planning a possible trip to Croatia, snubbed the idea of a workaway placement there, as the level of work (about eight hours) the hostel place wanted in comparison to how much simply paying for the rooms would have cost, worked out at less than minimum wage. I'm no mathematician, but this is exactly what was happening at my place in Turkey. I'm not afraid of a little hard graft, but this was getting ridiculous) 

The free time was excellent, of course, when I could get it. I had maybe, four, fivehours a day? I'll write another post on what I got up to later, but for the most part I waited for my next instructions by the pool. This hardly seems like I was having a tough time, I'm aware, but I wanted to actually see Turkey. You know, outside of the hotel grounds.

Anyway, I digress. I told my boss that I was going to leave the next day, as I wanted to do more travelling. She kicked off. According to her, it was dishonest of me to come to her hotel with the intention of leaving after a week. She didn't believe my protest of not setting out with that intention. She rebuked my argument that I work more than the advertised five hours a day (!!!!!). She told me I could leave. Not tomorrow, not later, now. I packed my bag.

Now, a grown woman, knowing full well I had nowhere to go, no way to get there, and no place to stay, kicked a nineteen year old girl, on her own, in the arse end middle of nowhere, out onto the streets of a country I couldn't even speak the language of. I don't mean to sound accusing, but if that isn't a touch rash, then I couldn't tell you what is.

In the taxi on the way to central Fethiye.
Luckily, I had Regina. She's a German teacher on sabbatical, and we've become quite close since meeting at the hotel. She speaks Turkish and English, and upon seeing me, hysterical and lugging my suitcase, found me a taxi and gave me some advice as to what to do next. A few phone calls later, my taxi arrived, Regina negotiated a price, and I was on my way to central Fethiye. Without her, I'd be lost in the woods of Kayakoy dragging my face and 14k suitcase behind me.

I've arrived in central Fethiye, and am booked into a small hotel near the dolmus station. I rocked up, slightly hysterical (you know me, never one to get upset in the face of chaos) and was shown my new room. I phoned my mum and a friend to let them know I was safe but in a different place, and sat and thought for a while.

Half in shock still, half relieved, I didn't really know what to do with myself. I showered (they have two settings here, scalding hot, and "off".), wandered round Fethiye village, ate something, and stared at the balcony in a daze. I think tomorrow, I'll go to visit Paspatur . Hopefully it'll be slightly less eventful. I don't think my mum's nerves could take another surprise.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Turns out I don't speak Turkish

One of the more disheartening things about having an unusual first name is the variety of pronunciations people use to address you with. Over time, I've learnt to respond to Ferrar, Faye, Faya, Fairer, Freya, Sarra, Tara, and Fa-rur. None of which are my actual name. Sometimes, people don't believe that Kelly is my surname, so refer to me as that instead, and are indignant when I don't immediately respond.

So it's a nice novelty to be in a country where the name "Farrah" is actually not all that uncommon. It's spelt differently (Ferah), and the /r/ is more of a trill (phonetics friends might dispute this, I was never any good in phon&phon), but it's my name nonetheless. I was pleasantly surprised how easily the staff remembered it- whenever I've met second language-English speakers, I'm known as anything but my actual name. When I worked in a Chinese restaurant most of the staff got my attention with clicks or hand gestures. The rest didn't bother to learn my name. I'm loving this temporary honour.

Short of this bemusing highlight, the language differences have, naturally, been a pain . I rely on confusing hand gestures and interpreting mimicry to gain my instructions, which you'd think would be easy enough. But, no. Pointing at a chair and miming sitting down and opening a book, does not in fact mean, "go and sit down and read a book". It means "wait here while I mop so you can put the floor rugs down after I've finished". Obviously. Which I learned the hard way- and managed to get told off, like a child, for innocently finding a book and seat and doing what I thought I was told. 

  It's  pretty hard to not use phrases and culutre references- offering to brew up is met with confusion and comparing a hotel guest to Cheryl Cole charcter draws blank looks. Most of what I say, whether to the Turkish or Germans here, is replied to with polite-I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about laughter, or ignored all together.

Not having any difficulty in understanding when they tell me I can "sit down".
We've developed our own little quasi-language, a pidgin, if you will. "Make it work" means "turn the washing machine on". "Hep" means  "follow me". A high pitched hum means I'm doing something wrong. My communication is surviving on half sentences and  Turkish and English words mangled together. 

The upshot of this whole language barrier is that I've basically forgotten how to speak like a normal person. I find myself awkwardly imitating their accents when trying to ask them for the next job- "Me mop?" "Where this?". It's pretty hard to not feel like I'm patronising them. It's even harder not to laugh at their botched attempts of English "You shut up" for "Empty the dishwasher" was a personal favourite.
So no, I'm not fluent in Turkish. I'm holding out for another hidden talent.  Statistically speaking, if I'm so crap at everything else, then I'm logically bound to stumble across something I'm blindingly brilliant at. Eventually.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The first thing to go wrong in Turkey.

I'd been in Turkey less than an hour and I was already at risk of ending up stuck at the airport.

I'd watched my luggage going round the little carasoul twice before realsing it was mine, and was too busy being disapproving of two drunk girls who were creating a little scene at the other end of the arrivals lounge to pick it up the third time. Hardly a disaster, but I'd let myself get stressed out and annoyed by all the other people who were legitimately waiting for their bags in the most frustrating fashion possible- including loudly exclaiming that they wouldnt recognise their bags in any case. Is that irony? I'm not sure, but it did feel stupid.

More importantly though,was how I intended in getting from the airport to where I was staying. Kayakoy is a tiny village of Fethiye- a good 45km from the airport. I'd booked transfers online and was armed with my documents and proof of purchases (including reinforcemnts, courtesy of Nana Kelly). I was therefore slightly distraught to find that the transfer company had no record of my booking, and wouldn't be willing to take me to my destination. I was told to wait while they tried to solve the problem. A kindly Irish tour guide took some pity on my lonely state and kept me company- she chatted cheerfully about how I needn't worry too much, she'd seen worse happen to nicer people. Thanks, I think...

Thirty minutes later, after being peered at by a range of taxi drivers and having my receipts passed around a group of uniformed Turkish guides, I was asked to confirm the address, because apparently the one I had supplied (and had taken straight from the hotel website) didn't exist. Which was reassuring.

The guide informed me that as I had booked through an indirect site-Travel Republic- the address had been accepted. However, this particular company did not go to the small village of Kayakoy as it was too obscure , so though I'd booked with them, the transaction had never been authorised. Which was great news- and the image of me standing at the side of the road with my thumb stuck out lodged permanently in my mind's eye.

A compromise they were willing to make- which I thought generous seeing as they weren't being paid and had no moral obligation to help me out- was to drive me to a taxi rank in Fethiye, where the local firm would then look after me. I was passed around Turkey not entirely unlike cargo, eventually to the safety of my hotel.

safe & in the right place. woo!

Turkish drivers are very different. They have no reliance on cats eyes to help them navigate the dangerously stwisting roads- just their own pair. Nor do they have any qualms in using their phones- they're all calling each other, presumably, to let them know that they're driving. I have never been in a taxi in England where the driver has made a sudden U-turn back to the rank in order to pick up his sister. But, I suppose, this is all part of the adventure. What's probably more bizarre is although the second driver knew only a very basic amount of English, he knew every word of LMFAO's album "Sorry for Party Rocking". Which I guess is the important stuff.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Turkey tomorrow!

Not sure if I've mentioned it, but I'm going to Turkey tomorrow.

Just, you know. If you were wondering what I was up to. That's it. I'm flying to Dalaman, I'm working in Kayakoy, I'm going alone. For just three weeks, but still.

It's the longest I'll have been away from home, discounting university. And to be honest, I get so pathetically homesick while in York, that it wouldn't surprise me if you told me that I never made it three weeks without having a cheeky weekend home. So this'll be interesting, at any rate.

Because I have so far undergone three separate personal safety lectures from family members, and also because I am a bit of an internet addict, I will be blogging still while I'm away.It lets my mum know I've not eloped with a Turkish waiter, and it also gives me an excuse to brag about what I'm doing, as I'm doing it.

I'm slightly terrified. I'll probably be hysterical at the airport tomorrow. But lets just focus on the excitement- that's much more fun!

(Also would like to immortalise my gratitude to Jonathan Frost for making this website look all shiny and pretty. You're fabulous.)

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Yorker Archives: Getting your deposit back.

This time of year is one fraught with distress for students. Results are rolling in thick and fast, it’s at least a four month hiatus from all your university friends, student loans aren’t coming in until next October... and for many of us, our delightful landlords are dangling our deposits just out of reach.

As second and third years will now know, getting your deposits back this summer is a very simple process. You have to have not broken or stolen anything. You have to return keys and other bits and bobs back in time. You have to have hired Kim and Aggy, spend seven full days sobbing over a blue-tack mark on your wall, hoovering the ceilings and polishing the underside of your desks. Also, make sure the oven LITERALLY sparkles, the loo could be used to eat your dinner off, and there isn’t a single stray micro-speck of dust floating in the atmosphere of your bedroom. Otherwise, kiss goodbye to that £300.

Students aren’t exactly notorious for their cleanliness. It’s a fact jumped on by landlords, as they fear for the state of the carpets each time they let out a property to a group of scruffy undergrads. Hence the relatively large deposits and the forty-seven page cleaning manual doled out to many tenants at the end of summer term. They’re just worried they’ll have to rehouse all those traffic cones you brought home after nights out all year, or pay for a professional cleaner to get rid of all the kebab mould from the kitchen. Fair enough.

The requirements set out by your landlord in order to return your deposit may seem tantalisingly obscure, but in reality, you needn’t worry too much. Minimise the possibility of any clashes by being sensible and logical when leaving your student home.

  • Put everything they provided you with in the places that they were in on moving in day. That means the Henry vacuum you haven’t used all year and is being used as a bedside table in your room needs to be put back in the utility cupboard. That way, the landlord won’t think you’ve stolen the entire cutlery collection and charge you for it, when in fact it’s all there underneath your bed. 
  • Double check what they expect to be left in the house. This means examining the inventory you should have been given. It can be pretty easy to quickly become attached to certain household items (tin openers that miraculously work, for example), so unless you’re 100% certain that that kettle is yours, you’d be better off cross-referencing the inventory with everything you’re stowing away in the moving van. 
  • Take photos of the house right before you leave. Not necessarily for nostalgic reasons, though I’m sure in twenty years’ time you’ll get a great laugh out of looking at the shower you used to use. Rather, these photographs or recordings will provide you with some kind of proof of how you left the house. If there are any disputes over cleanliness or missing items, then you will be able to consult these pictures. 
Although it may seem like a mammoth task to polish your student digs up into pristine condition, making sure you put a little extra elbow grease in may be the difference between getting your deposit back and being forced to beg your parents for Efe’s money. Also as your deposit should be protected by the Deposit Protection Scheme, any really serious disputes can be taken to them. Happy scrubbing!


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Ning York: Restaurant Review

Having promised myself a visit to the newly opened Malay restaurant upon reading of its opening here, I could barely contain my excitement when I eventually rocked up at York’s latest Asian cuisine offering. And, thrillingly, my excitement was justified.

It was pretty quiet on the Wednesday evening when I arrived with my friend. There was no need to book, and we had a choice of the many available tables. There was a choice of a two course set priced menu at just £14.00, which we went for.  We students do have an eye for a good value bargain, after all.

As I was there with a friend who happened to have an incredible inside knowledge of the food- convincing someone who works a t a restaurant to eat there as a customer is no mean feat- I didn’t bother reading the menu. I just asked him to pick out what he thought were the best meals, and sat back as he did the hard work for me.

My friend, the charming Ian Lau, talked me through the menu, translating where necessary, and recommending what he thought I’d like. Though the menu is pretty accessible for those of us who have never actually eaten real Malay food before- and would have no idea what Nasi Ayem is normally (I have possibly made that dish up, excuse me)- it was definitely to my advantage having an insider on the job.  That, and in the same way Emma Bennett who hails from Blackpool, the spiritual home of fish & chips, knows a damn good chippy when she sees one, Ian knew exactly which dishes were going to be the real thing.

Gado Gado Salad & whatever Ian had...
I don’t usually let people order for me in restaurants, my feminist urges squirm with rage if a guy tries assumes I can’t manage the task for myself, but not wanting to ridicule myself with the pronunciation of the exotic but impossible sounding  delicacies, Ian kindly took the burden off me. Having avoided the embarrassment of trying to pronounce some of the more interestingly named dishes, me and Ian settled in a well needed and animated catch-up.

Our starters arrived shortly, and taste delicious. In fact, having been starving myself all day in preparation for this mega meal, I could have just about made out with the plate. They looked impressive, and though I’m not usually one for peanuts, I could have cried over the sauce, I was enjoying it that much. I had the Gado Gado sald, which for laypeople such as myself, basically translates to “get into my mouth oh my god”. Ian had gone for a cool stuffed and layered fried pancake thing, which I can also reassure you tasted amazing. The salad was a considerably larger starter than Ian’s, so I definitely got the better deal since I was famished.

I had been advised to order an extra side dish in order to qualify for the set priced menu, and stupidly went for Jasmine rice, despite ordering seafood Kuey Teow which is a wok-fried noodle dish. I love my rice as much as the next person, but there was just no need for both noodles and rice, so the small side bowl went untouched. Grumpy that I hadn’t gone for prawn crackers, I swiftly moved on with my life when I tucked into my food. Again, delicious. My only complaint would be that my starter and main were fairly similar- but was fine by me seeing as I’d all but necked the first dish.
Kuey Teow and the Beef Rendang

We lingered over our mains for a good long time; I pinched some of Ian’s mind blowing extra hot beef Rendang, and we were left to it by the staff. After an hour or so, we surrendered what was left of our food and asked for the dessert menu. I’m not usually one for warm desserts, so when Ian ordered an odd green trifle thing, I had to wait for it to cool down before I could enjoy. The service was friendly and attentive- stopping to chat even when I could see they were busy and happy to make special kitchen requests on our behalf. While paying the bill I had a great time singing their praises on the comments card, and had a merry little chat with them.

I think I'll try to go for a meal with someone who knows the food inside out every time, as Ian did a marvellous job as Chief Recommender. Impressed and stuffed, we pootled our way off to the nearest bar to celebrate a good meal.

Friday, 6 July 2012

It's happening. I'm going travelling. Oh god.

This Wednesday, I'm going to be getting on a plane. I'll sit, nursing my battered Bill Bryson book, eagerly staring out of the window and waiting to land in Dalaman, Turkey. Then, I'll lug my suitcases  into the taxi and wind through the Turkish countryside to the stunning Kayakoy and eventually turn a corner that has a view of the hotel I'll be staying/working at. That's the plan, anyway.

I use the word "plan" in the loosest sense of the word, however. "Plan", by its normal definition, usually indicates some level of organisation- some decided design that involves times and routes and prices. Perhaps even booking confirmation numbers. That is not, however, how I intend you to understand the word "plan", as that would be outright misleading. Instead, the opening paragraph of this blog should be read more as; "I'm going to Turkey on Wednesday. Bugger. I haven't got the faintest idea what to do". That'd be much more accurate.

I'm not exactly an unorganised person. I have the flights booked, I have work lined up in a beautiful boutique hotel. I'm travelling through the Work Away scheme, which means I'll work around 5 hours a day for 5 days a week in return for a bed and feeding. (It's a really cool scheme, definitely check it out.) So in some respects, I have planned the most important bits.

However, when you realise that you have less than a week to go before you'll be landing alone in a foreign country and you still have done a majestic Sod All in preparation- panic begins to settle in. I haven't booked luggage onto the flight. I have no idea how to get from the airport to my hotel. I haven't ordered any currency. I don't even have any sunscreen.

As Wednesday creeps closer, surviving on a wing and a prayer is looking like my only option. Perhaps it'll be exhilarating. Imagine, arriving in an alien country with only the faintest idea of how to pronounce the region I'm staying in. Perhaps the adrenalin will kick in, and I'll become some sort of super-traveller, instantly fluent in Turkish, with an internal compass that'd impress GoogleMaps. I'll quickly adapt to my new way of life and will be accepted by locals as one of their own. That, or I'll blunder about the airport arrivals lounge for a while before being taken for a ride (literally AND metaphorically) by the nearest taxi firm who are driving in the complete opposite direction of where I'm supposed to be heading. I'll be left to hike up an incredibly steep hill, and I'll land in a heap, several hours later, on the doorstep of my new temporary home only to find that I've left my money on the backseat of the taxi which is now cheerfully steaming away. Unlike Natwest-advert-lady, I can't phone my mum at four in the morning and brightly ask for £400. Not without being laughed at, anyway.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating. I'll get my luggage booked this weekend, and if all else fails I'll just do it at the airport. My currency can be ordered pretty much a day in advance, and I think if I leave it long enough, my gran will eventually buy me some sunscreen. Booking a transfer is probably going to be the biggest problem- I'm toying with the idea of staying in a hotel at the airport for the night instead, and using public transport in the morning to get to Kayakoy. Arriving so late is turning out to be a bigger pain that I'd anticipated, and definitely something I'll take into consideration next time I'm booking flights. I think it'll cost me more in trying to get from the airport to my hotel at some unholy dark hour than I ever saved in the first place by booking the cheapest possible flight. Lesson learned.

Either way, this time next week I'll be sunning myself in the stunning Kayakoy. I might not have any money, a map, or the vaguest sense of what I'm doing with my life, but it'll be gorgeous regardless.