Saturday, 18 August 2012

RAMAZAN BAYRAMI - A TIME OF GREAT CELEBRATION IN TURKEY

Today is Ramadan Feast Eve which marks the last day of the month long Ramazan fasting and is a  day of preparation for the start of the three day festival Ramazan Bayrami also known as the Şeker Bayramı (sugar festival) since it is customary to offer sweets to family and friends who visit.

Many people will purchase new clothes to wear for the Festival, and will take time preparing traditional desserts such as Baklava to give to friends and neighbours. Today is also a day to remember and honour the dead and many people will be visiting the cemeteries to visit the graves of departed friends and family.

Eid ul-fitr (the festival of the breaking of the fast) is the end of the month of Ramazan and the commencement of a three day festival, during which all Government offices, schools, banks and many private businesses will be closed. A time of feasting and sharing, when friends, family and neighbours are visited, past grievances are cast aside and charity is foremost in people's minds. Children will visit relatives and friends and traditionally kiss the elders right hand and then place their hand on their forehead as a mark of respect to them. They will in turn give the children sweets and money.

Although not living here last year we happened to be here on holiday during the Ramazan Bayrami and it was a wonderful atmosphere here in the village. On the first day of celebrations we saw villagers setting off to visit neighbouring villages by any number of modes of transport. They went by mule, packed in cars, on trailers pulled by ancient tractors, entire families loaded on scooters and all dressed up as we had never seen them before.

Conspicuous in their absence was the herd of goats the first morning of Bayrami which normally browse around our house. However, the goatherd was there with his stock in the evening looking very dapper in his best clothes, allowing his goats to browse in the field opposite our house. A lady with them - Mother? - laid down in the field whilst they browsed and after an hour or more of  laying comatosed, during which time we watched her dog try several times to rouse her, we were just about to go across, as we were thinking she had suffered a heart attack and died, when she slowly got up and tottered off - a case of over indulgence at the family feast perhaps?!

During the three days of festivities, traffic increases considerably as people travel to visit friends and relatives. In fact statistics show a massive increase in credit card expenditure during this time, a lot of which is spent on petrol. It is also possible that ATMs may run out of money during the holiday period. But other than that most visitors to Turkey during the Festival period will thoroughly enjoy the fantastic atmosphere at this time.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

THE DOLMUŞ - SO MUCH MORE THAN A BUS IN RURAL TURKEY


We currently don't have a car in Turkey, the jury is still out as to whether we really need to have one here or not. Cars are very expensive to buy here - several thousand lira for what in England we would consider a £500 old banger, also petrol is extremely expensive here. So at the moment we rely on public transport, which in Turkey is the Dolmuş (mini-buses) for local routes or the Otobüs (coaches) for the longer journeys. It is very easy to get pretty well anywhere you want to in Turkey on one or the other. But for the moment I am concentrating on the Dolmuş, which we have now used several times and we feel each time we use one we are setting off on an unknown adventure.

Most visitors to Turkey will have used a dolmuş at one time or another to get from a to b, and they are a great experience. Although each dolmuş has a start and finish point, in between these there are no bus stops (apart from on some city/town routes), you basically get on and off wherever you like.

OUR VILLAGE DOLMUS FETHIYE TO UZUMLU WITH IT'S GREEN FRONT
 If you want to get on it's easy, you just stick out your arm like hailing a London cab, the driver stops as soon as he can and you climb on board. If you're lucky you get a seat, or you may have to stand. It is usual to pay when you board the dolmuş, by giving your money to the driver, obviously as they are driving at the time it is best if you can give the correct fare, but if not they are very adept at counting money whilst driving! They also talk on their mobile phones, catch sight of any prospective fares walking along the road - in which case they will pip their horn to see if they want to get on, listen for people wanting to get off at random places, carry on conversations with people on the bus and cope with the Turkish traffic which is another subject all on it's own. Being a dolmuş driver is clearly not for the person who cannot multitask!! If when you get on the dolmuş you are swept down the other end of the bus from the driver, it is quite normal to pass the money to the person in front of you who will in turn pass it on down the dolmuş, any change appearing back with you shortly as other passengers pass it back to you from the driver.

To make it even easier each dolmuş is colour coded according to it's route. Our local Fethiye to Uzumlu one is green, others have yellow, blue, red, black fronts so that you can see as they approach if it is yours or not, long before you can read the sign on the front. Also in general they run regularly and to time. The British transport system could certainly learn a lot from them.

The Ölüdeniz dolmuş is white with blue writing

Getting off for us non Turkish speaking people, is of course more of a problem and I think some of us are telling little porkies here if we say we have not on occasion got off later than we would have liked, because of the utter fear of making a spectacle of ourselves trying to attract the drivers attention from the back of the bus. I understand that it is usual to say one of the following:
"Inecek Var" (someones getting off)
"Musait bir yerde inebilir miyim?" (Can I get off at a convenient place?)
"Musait bir yerde!" (Somewhere suitable!)
Musait bir yerde indirir misiniz?" (Will you let me get off somewhere convenient?)
or just "Dur lutfen" (stop please).

But so far we just stand and dither and hope the driver catches sight of us. What a pair of wimps we are - but early days, I'm sure we will get braver.

Whilst all of the above is fairly standard for any dolmuş ride, the rural routes such as our dolmuş to Uzumlu is often a little different. For a start the drivers know everyone in the villages and exactly where they live, so they will automatically draw up right outside their house if it is en route, or as close as possible if they live up a side road.

A lot of villagers use the dolmuş to do their main shopping and will get on laden with bag after bag, particularly on market days, which are spread all along the aisles. Unlike in the UK where most people look the other way, the other passengers enthusiastically help with the loading and unloading of these goods. We have heard of someone who brought a washing machine home on the dolmuş with most of the people on the bus contributing to the heaving to get it on board!

As we have already mentioned in a previous blog, our milk is delivered by the driver twice a week, as is other people's who live out of the village. We have often seen unaccompanied 'objects' being put on the dolmuş for instance last time it was a motor off something, which when the driver drew up outside the service engineers in Fethiye a guy appeared on the pavement and took it into his shop. No doubt it travelled back the same way when it had been mended! It is quite normal for large bags of 'whatever' to be dropped off at the shops in the village.

We have sat on the bus in Uzumlu square and waited whilst the driver uses his mobile phone to check whether someone who is normally on that dolmuş is not coming or is just late. We have waited at points along the route for people to appear whose friends have asked the driver to wait for them. But one of the most bizarre was when we drew up outside a bakers shop in Fethiye and a youngster on the dolmuş was given some money by an elderly Turkish couple, he disappeared into the shop only to reappear a few moments later with their shopping and change and we all proceeded on our way again!

In our opinion these drivers are to be applauded for their service to the rural communities, we think they are absolutely brilliant!

So as well as providing us with the transport we need, we love the trips on the dolmuş when we are never quite sure how it is going to turn out and of course whether this is the trip where we dare to say in Turkish we would like to get off!



Monday, 13 August 2012

A CATCH UP ON OUR LIVES IN TURKEY

It's been so hectic lately that we have not been able to find time to add to our blog. So here goes with a catch up on our lives in Turkey.

Most important is that David has finally returned after several weeks in the UK. He has now disposed of all the furniture and other belongings that we still had in England so now all bridges are burnt, and we are more determined than ever to make our new life in Turkey work for us.

He arrived just in time for my birthday which was wonderful, he managed to take my breath away by asking me to marry him on the morning of my birthday. After several years of living together this was rather shocking! So now we are planning a wedding in Turkey next May, and have to start finding out how to do that. Any advise welcome!


Çingene thinks she is a dog

The new animals have now settled well and seem extremely happy here. Çingene has now been on her own with the dogs so long we think she thinks she is a dog. She is the Matriarch of the family, and in spite of her diminutive stature thinks nothing of slapping the dogs faces if she thinks they need pulling back in line! Horrace has finally decided he is fed up with living upstairs and has now rejoined the family without incident. Inca however, is still cutting her nose to spite her face and refusing to mix with the others yet. But we can tell shes getting fed up now and we don't think it will be long before she too joins the rest of the gang. When I think of the early days with the two new ones it goes to show how people should persevere when taking on another animal and not give up at the first problem, because it does take time for them to settle. Particularly rescued animals as they unfortunately, inevitably 'bring baggage' with them from their previous lives, where who knows what they suffered.

"I love you Tyson"

Two good mates having a snooze together

The garden has done well for our first year, our greatest achievements being the melons and aubergines which we could never grow in England. But we have learnt a lot about how different gardening is here and we have made a lot of mistakes along the way, by trying to garden the English way!

While David was away I started to go to the Quiz night at The Uzumlu Winehouse. A great evening where all are welcome and it is for a good cause to raise money for Animal Aid.

I also had a wonderful day at Nif visiting the donkeys which were transferred to a wonderful home there, having been found in a sorry state in Fethiye, but I will write more on that another time. I would like to thank the Animal Aid team who took me under their wing and took me to these two events. They are are a truly wonderful bunch of people who made me feel so welcome whilst I was in Turkey on my own, and I can't thank them enough for that.

Now life has settled back down again we look forward to days out exploring and look forward to writing about where we go, what we do and who we meet.