Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009 - 1 comment

Life Behind the Trenches

More often than not, our neighbourhood resembles a warzone. No, there aren't tanks rolling down the street or snipers on the rooftops. It's more the fact that we are surrounded by trenches, and the sounds of the big machines digging them might as well be machine guns. If in the heart of every man there still exists a little boy who likes to dig in the dirt, these city workers must be in heaven cuz they get to dig up our road on a regular basis. In the fall, it was for plumbing pipes, and this time, they've re-dug the same ditches to put in new water pipes. Or something. (Why we couldn't have done this all at the same time, I am not sure.)

Thankfully they are kind enough to go around and tell everyone to move their cars from the parking lot before they dig, but if you aren't home at them time, you could be stuck and not able to get your vehicle out for a few days. The trickiest part is that the location of the trenches and the little footbridges to cross them changes on an almost daily basis, so you can't get too confident of your route (especially in the dark!) or you may find yourself in a hole. You are taking your life in your hands every time you go to the corner store! I think the neighbours must get such a kick of watching us dash down the road (dog in tow, of course), navigating the maze as fast as we can in order to not miss the bus. Sometimes it's faster just to play the graceful (hopefully) gazelle and take a flying leap and hope you make it across. (One of my roommates had an unfortunate incident last week where her foot slipped an she landed shoulder deep in the dirt!) Particularly amusing is the spectacle that occurs when the shepherds have to get their sheep across. Inevitably a few poor little lambs have to be rescued cuz their little legs just can't make the jump.

Never a dull moment, let me tell you.

Bobbie has been particularly puzzled by the ever-changing landscape of the neighbourhood.

If these pipes mean a more regular water supply, it will definitely have been worth the nuisance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 1 comment

My Faithful Shadow

It all started when we were babysitting our friends' dog for a few weeks in the fall. Every morning when we'd take him out to play, and every evening when we'd walk him, the same stray dog that lives in our area would come along for the fun. And knowing that there was a furry little playmate inside, she would wait impatiently at the door between appearances. It just so happened that the neighbour who had been feeding this dog moved away right then, and when we felt bad for her and started leaving her scraps outside, she became a permanent fixture on our front porch. When she stayed long after the puppy had gone and when the neighbours started congratulating us on our new dog, we knew we had a "situation." (Turks are happy to feed dogs on the street, but not so keen on them actually being pets, so we have a delicate balance to maintain if we are to keep up our good reputation.) :)

We named her Bag o' Bones, cuz that's pretty much what she was, and started calling her "Bobbie" for short. She was scrawny and pitiful, and while there was no way we were going to take a gross street dog inside, we didn't want a gross looking dog on our porch, either, so we figured we should start taking care of her. Worm meds helped the food stick to her bones and the nice little mat we put around the corner has been a feeble attempt to at least keep her off the front porch. I laughed when I came back from Christmas and found that my roommate had actually bought a pail of dog food and some biscuits! Now Bobbie is living in style!

Trouble is, you can't go anywhere on foot without Bobbie following you, which is mostly sweet but sometimes annoying. When I go to the waterfall to read, she accompanies me, and when I have a chai at the tea garden, she sits happily by my side. The bus driver's get a real kick out of the way she waits for the bus with me - except for the time she tried to get on! At first when she would follow me to the grocery store (and wait faithfully outside) or to Chicken Lady's for a lesson, I would try to pretend she wasn't mine and say things like, "Isn't this weird - she followed me all the way from home!" But then I started to feel guilty, like the cool kid who is nice to her nerdy friend when they are alone but disowns her in public. So I started owning up to the fact that she lives on our porch. Now she is known around town as "my caretaker." Even though I know she is too skittish to ever do anyone any harm, no one else knows that, and I do take comfort in the fact that no one will ever come near me as long as I am accompanied by my guard dog!

Bobbie making friends with a goat when we went for a walk.

She gets really excited when I pull out the camera.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 1 comment

Spring Has Sprung

A recent sunny Sunday sent me off for a walk in a nearby neighbourhood to see how spring was progressing over yonder. Seemed I wasn't the only one making the most of a chance to get out in the nice weather - in every garden, I found a tree adorned with bright lemons, on every roof, a string of wet laundry, and in every yard, children being children under the bright sun.

I am always sensitive with when to pull out my camera in poorer areas like this since I don't want to make anyone feel exploited and I do need to keep up good relationships around here. That day, though, as I was shooting a lemon tree, I got the most amusing reaction from a wrinkled (and quite possibly senile) old lady who passed on the road. When she saw my camera, she asked if I was a journalist and then held up the stick she was carrying and asked if I wanted her to hit me like a cow! Thankfully I have a gift for sweet-talking old ladies and as soon as I told her I didn't work for a paper and was simply admiring the beauty of spring in her neighbourhood, she switched into "auntie mode" and kept pinching my cheeks and telling me how cute I was. (Here's a photo I snuck as she and her granddaughter walked away.)

I walked past two absolutely beautiful little girls playing in the back of a truck, and when I asked if I could take their photo, they happily struck their well-rehearsed model poses for me. Mom came out shortly after and, of course, invited me in for tea. As I chatted with Mom and Grandma, the girls competed for my attention. The eldest informed me that she had been on TV the day before - apparently her preschool had been featured on the news. This one definitely had the look of a little star in the making. She asked if I knew how to dance, and I was relieved that she believed me when I said no. Happy to keep the spotlight, she turned on a music video channel and began to show me her moves. Besides the fact that I was jealous a five year old could move her hips better than I can, there was something disturbing about her little performance. It was evident that she had spent hours mirroring the artists she sees on TV because not only was her dancing amazing, but she had perfected the look of seduction. It is such a paradox that a country that covers its girls and boasts of their purity has so much twisted lust lurking just under the surface. With sexual abuse so common within families, I can only pray that this little one's innocent fun is able to remain innocent, and that the "skills" applauded by her parents now won't one day unknowingly lead her to heartache.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009 - 3 comments

Refrigerator Art

Yesterday Dad showed me something pretty stinkin' amazing. He showed me a picture of his fridge - as if he has a fridge! - and it was covered in artwork. My artwork! He told me that he had saved every little thing I had ever made, from fingerpaintings to professional photos. But more than that, he has collected every piece of myself I have ever offered, whether or not it was accepted or prized by its intended receiver. Like a proud Daddy, he treasures it all.

The desire to create is so strong in me, and yet so often I don't give it enough validity in my life, or I don't think it is as good a use of my time as (fill in the blank.) Or sometimes the things I have to offer don't feel like what is needed, so I hold them back. But he is healing this part of my soul, showing me that everything I have to give is so incredibly precious to him, and with this comes the courage to truly offer what is in my heart.

That said, my joyful response today was to create something! I exploded my artsy stuff all over the room and had a delightfully crafty day off. Here is the result - a skyline of my favourite city that is soon to grace a blank spot on my wall.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009 - 4 comments

Chinese Trickery, Snowdrops and Other Curious Discoveries

Saturday morning, time for a road trip. For me it was something of a research trip for a project I am working on, and for my roommate/chauffer, it was simply a chance to "get outta Dodge." Armed with granola bars, spare memory cards and our sense of adventure, we hopped in the car and took off. And not a moment too soon. The jackhammer guys had already begun their lovely work outside our window again early this morning. Between their shake-the-house racket and the ever-present campaign-mobiles that have for weeks been circling the neighbourhood like musical "vote-for-me-vultures," it is hard to concentrate on anything these days. That and the Prime Minister is coming for a rally tomorrow so the whole city is in a bit of an excited frenzy. All that said, it was a good day to skip town.

The iPod adaptor thingy was in rare form today - we had everyone from Louis Armstrong to our favourite Turkish pop guys along for the ride. Only trouble was, the thing would only seem to stay connected to the cigarette lighter when I propped it up with my knee. Made for an interesting ride. :)

Our intended target was Akseki, a town way up in the mountains that is home to the snowdrop - a hearty little flower that pushes its way up through the snow each year to signify the coming of spring. Being in no hurry, however, we made several stops along the way. Road trips in Turkey are great cuz you get to hit up all the little roadside stands and buy homegrown stuff for much cheaper than you find it in the city. Thus, by the end of the day, we had accumulated two bags of oranges, a jar of honey (with the honeycomb still in it), some unidentifiable (and rather smelly) dried fruit that the honey lady insisted would help circulation, some famous Trabzon bread and several bottles of olive oil. (We also passed several lawn decoration shops on the side of the highway. I now know where you can get life-sized statues of zebras, Roman soldiers and Shrek if you are ever in the market.)

We also happened upon an interesting little plaza with statues of the founders of all the great rulers of the empires of Central Asia from the Khans to the Ottomans. I now know what Atilla the Hun looks like up close! :) The translations beneath each statue were highly amusing - it seems as though many of the empires fell as a result of "Chinese tricks and brother fights." Curious.

Akseki proved to be just as charming as I'd hoped. We started off with some pide (flatbread with ground meat and spices) at a little hole-in-the-wall joint with a great view of the snowy mountains. The first thing I noticed about the restaurant's decor was that on the wall there were 8 or 9 of the little calendars that you tear off each day - here they always show the times of the call to prayer for each part of the country, based on sunrise and sunset. Anyways, they all seemed to be stuck on the 13th - of what month, I couldn't see. Intrigued, we asked the waiter if something important had happened on the 13th. He laughed and sheepishly told us that that was when he'd gotten lazy and stopped flipping them. Again, curious.

After lunch we set out to explore the town. It is set on a hillside with winding paths meandering through rows of these really unique stone houses. It seemed the style was to have lots of pieces of wood poking out from amidst the stones in the walls. Not sure as to the purpose of this, but I am sure there is one. Once you got off the main road, the whole place was eerily quiet. We learned later that this is because many people only live up there in the summer, and they work down on the coast the rest of the year. (I'm more convinced that it's because no one wants to climb up and down those hills!) Still, there were a few cozy homes with smoke curling out of their chimneys, and that comforting wintry woodstove smell.

Thankfully, as I was roaming around dreamily, letting my camera drink in the cuteness of the stone houses, my partner in crime had her eyes pealed for the object of our quest: the snowdrops. And lo and behold, we found some. Granted, the snow had already melted and they were now set in patches of grass amid discarded trash, but they were still worth every bit of the two hour trip. Snowdrops symbolize hope - the assurance that winter's bleakness won't last forever, that's spring's beauty is on its way. Welcoming that sense of hope for my own life, I picked several of the tiny white flowers to save for later. Then, at the urging of some sweet ladies that we met, ten dirty fingernails and a whole lot of broken sticks later, I dug up one of the bulbs to take home and plant in our garden. (Rather, my roommate will plant it - the only thing I know how to do with flowers is kill them.) :)

On the way home, I was starting to hit that "afternoon fuzzy brain time" and I knew it could only be cured by a good cup of coffee. My roommate, being of the compassionate nature and very aware of the seriousness of my need for caffeine, humoured me and pulled off at the town of Manavgat. We drove around for a bit, looking for a female friendly cafe (most are more like "man houses" where men sit around playing cards while their wives are at home with their seven kids) and finally found one. And when I stepped out of the car, a glorious thing happened.

For you to appreciate it, I have to give you a little background info first. Last fall, my two roommates and I started a little competition. Each of the 81 provinces in Turkey have a different number on their license plate (i.e. Antalya is 07, Istanbul is 34) and the object of the game is to find (as in personally see) all 81 of the plates. Living in a city where people come from all over the country on vacation, we have all found most of the plates, but the last ten or so (mainly poor provinces in the east) have been pretty hard to come by. Roommate #1 was leaving in December to go home and get married, so we set a cutoff date before she left and awarded her the prize (a Mexican dinner which the other two paid for), since she was the closest to winning. However, Roommate #2 and I are still vying for second place, and the competition is fierce. But today was my lucky day. There is one particular plate number - 30, Hakkari, a province on the Iraqi border - that I thought would be the very hardest to find, so my eyes are always scanning for it. One day last fall, as Roommate #2 and I were driving, she saw a 30 a split second before me and I was so bummed. But today, who was parked beside us at the Manavgat cafe but some guy a long long way from his Hakkari home. Woohoo! I still have seven more plates left to find, but that 30 was a goofy little treasure for me. And thus that cup of Turkish coffee did more than just perk me up. It inadvertently brought me that much closer to the sweet taste of victory. :)