Friday, July 29, 2011

Culture Clash, Trouble in Paradise.

Up to now I have refrained from writing about the site ( pronounced sit-ai - meaning housing complex) where our house is located. But the events of this week have changed my mind.
There is a varied cast of characters, the site manager is Turkish, married to an American Jewish ex-spy- at least this is what he tells everyone, he worked on nuclear submarines.
Also there is the spurned wife, the hotel owner who with her children owns four of the nine houses,  the extended family from the capital, the bereaved Englishman, the uppity gardener and of course  don't forget me. I have been cast in the role of "Lady Chatterly" because of my friendship with the gardener. There is the makings of a wonderful soap opera here if only I had the courage to write it.

If you are in the upper strata here, you spend your day in the house along with your extended family only to emerge in the cool of the evening to head out en famille, dressed to kill. The second option is you head off early in the day for your chosen beach club where you watch and are watched, your every need catered for.

In the middle strata are the "foreigners" who are welcomed and accepted but they don't really know the rules well enough to join the upper echelons.

In the bottom strata are the cleaners and the caretaker who provide a valuable service but are not seen by many.

On arrival back in the late afternoon, some of the well-to-do, at best beep the car horn to summon the caretaker or a worst they bellow his name "Ali" so that he must drop everything to come and carry their one little bag of shopping.

"Ali" has no work contract. his job is to be there 24/7 to cater to the whims of the residents. His day begins at 6 in the morning and ends usually around 11 at night when the watering of the gardens is finished.
He goes to the shop and buys the bread and newspapers for those who want them and delivers them before eight in the morning. He walks the managers dog twice a day in summer and three times a week in winter.

In addition, he waters the gardens, cuts the grass and fixes the small things that go wrong in every ones house.  For this he earns the princely sum of €360 per month. He is also provided with a roof over his head and he does not pay electricity or water charges. More importantly his social insurance is paid.

We got to know "Ali" well when he was doing some work in the house for us. He ate his meals with us, as would be the norm at home if someone was doing a job for us and was in the house at mealtimes. His eyes lit up when he saw our table tennis table and he learned to play.  When I had an "encounter" with a male Turk who I thought was a friend he appointed himself my protector.

The Englishman has also become a friend of Alis. Often in the wintertime if there are only two of them here, they eat and chat together. Sometimes they work in the garden together and there is a lot of good-natured bantering.

This week there was a major row on site. It should have been a storm in a tea cup. A barbecue was organised for last Saturday night. Everyone on the site was invited. The meat was purchased from our maintenance payments and everyone was asked to bring something. I had a disagreement with the site manager in April so I was told through "Ali" that I was to make desserts for 30 people. It was to be a punishment. Little did she know I'm the dessert queen! I produced the goods and am still receiving compliments. She is not a happy camper. It was not the revenge she planned.

Anyway, the hotel owner was not told or invited to the party. Ali  says he was told she was not to be informed. A great night was had by all, but surprise, surprise it turned into a birthday party for the ex-nuclear submarine spy, the site managers husband.

The hotel owner found out about the party. She rang Ali and asked why he did not ring her. He said he had been told not to. As you can imagine an immediate row broke out between the site manager and the hotel owner.

This led to row number 3, as the site manager took a lump out of Ali for saying what he did. The next day he overhears the site manager talking to the hotel owner and giving him "down the banks." So he explodes and there is row number 4. The upshot is that "Ali" hands in his notice.

The hotel owner rings the lovely lady from the capital and explains how upset she is. She has cancer, her mother is very ill. She was so upset she says she didn't sleep all night. The capital lady smooths ruffled feathers and then organises a meeting with four of us, the manager and the caretaker to see what can be done to rectify the situation.

 Ali is trustworthy and reliable. No-one wants him to leave. The site manager arrived to find the English gent and I also present. She immediately began a bravura performance, stating she would not stay and would not discuss the topic. The other two Turkish ladies managed to persuade her to stay by saying Ali would not be present and we would talk to him later.

She immediately began a rant, he was a peasant, ignorant, uneducated etc.... needless to say I was shocked. English Gent who up to now had lot of respect for her, began to roar at her and tell her to "shut up," a phrase I absolutely abhor.

 Instead of endlessly going over the "I said, he said ....."  I suggested we move on to look for a solution. If we drew up a list of work conditions and hours there would be no misunderstandings. This was not acceptable to the manager but accepted immediately by the rest of the group. Then the s*** hit the fan. According to the manager it was all my fault. I should not have been friendly with him. We should not have brought him to Ireland. He no longer knows his place. He uses the familiar form of address to the manager. Turkish like French has the tu and vous verbs forms, sen and siz in Turkish. He will never amount to anything because of this. This is about a guy who walks their dog daily for no extra pay.

My smile has encouraged Ali to insurrection. In my opinion all I have done is treat him as a fellow human being, as I would anyone else. I think everyone, regardless of their job or income is entitled to respect. The manager emphatically stated she does not have to show him respect, she is his employer.

It is a question that has sometimes crossed our minds, is treating him by our standards creating an unreal expectation of how others will treat him? Are we responsible for creating dissatisfaction with his lot? Yet as opposed to this Capital Lady has always treated him with respect and has always received it in return, yet he does not expect to be her friend.  He knows the boundaries. What is your opinion? Should we have gone against our natures and cultures and been more reserved, should we have kept a distance? Should I not have given him English lessons to try and help him to improve himself?  Or is it a good thing to show others a different way of doing things, to challenge the class system and snobbery that exists among many though certainly not  all well-to-do Turks. I am really interested in your imput. I would love to hear your opinion on this topic.

As to the outcome of our "situation" there will be a meeting on Sunday evening with all the house owners to discuss the problem and hopefully draw up  a proper work contract for the caretaker, whoever it may be.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A golf cart, a wedding and Nomads......

After the excitement of the microlight flight it was back down to earth. We decided to take a tour of the old centre of Safranbolu. We travelled on a very sedate golf cart. There were several options. We chose the mini tour which lasted 45 minutes with an English commentary.  It was great value at just under €4 per person.Our driver/tour guide spoke English though he played a recording at some of the stops. However, he usually elaborated on the recorded information and answered all our questions.

Some of the interesting information.
The cobbles on the street all seem to run to a central channel, this was to take the water to the rivers. Also every 30m approx, there are three holes, this is also the drainage system.

We passed two hamams, one still working. People usually visited the hamam once a week and it was an all day affair, as they washed, ate gossiped and sized up potential suitors for their children. The hamam that is still working has separate quarters for men and women. This is often not the case with different times being assigned to men and women.

This hamam is no longer working. It had separate entrances for men and women.

The geological formations show that this area was once covered by sea, however earthquakes caused the sea to drain away and we were left with the present day Safranbolu.

Stopping to look back at the town

The view

and again!

Town planning was done carefully. The tannery and the saltworks were place close to the animal market so that goods did not have far to be ransported. The tannery workers had their own mosque beside the tannery so that the workers, who would have smelled strongly from their job would not offend the delicate nostrils of others as they kneel to pray.

Mosque for the tannery workers.
Everywhere there were beautiful fountains. The fountains were built for inside the house but they usually placed a tap outside as well for the passerbys
The inscription above the fountain tells us who had the fountain built.

Metin takes a drink.

After the tour we stopped to get a drink. There were two adjoining tables, and while we made our way to the empty one, Metin made an immediate beeline for the table where a beautiful Korean girl was writing in her notebook.

She had only just arrived in Turkey. She had quit her job and was travelling around Europe before returning to Korea to look for a new job. She was travelling in her own but had plans to meet her sister in Greece, see some of the islands, travel on to Venice and then back to Turkey.
Metin was encouraging her to visit Bodrum instead of Marmaris and he would show her around on his motorbike. He paid for her meal and lives in hope of an email with her change of plans.
Shade from the overhanging vines

Tourist town, lots of shopping.
Everywhere you could find these replica houses, most had a light inside.

We split up in the afternoon, Hubbie and Sis-in-Law going to see the museum, while Metin and I wandered and did a little shopping.
The museum is the large yellow building on the hill.

 Every corner we turned we were invited to taste the local lokum, Turkish delight, saffron flavoured of course. We also tasted helva. There were people in the street just waiting to tempt us with free samples and then entice us in to buy.We had a great conversation with the helva shopkeeper. He is now retired. He spent his years making the helva. Now that he is "retired" he is selling it. I bought one box for my friend, the other for ourselves.  Remind me never to buy it again. Unfortunately, I was the only one who liked it. One piece at a time is plenty as it is very sweet but it leaves the taste of more.  A minute on the lips, forever on the hips! How will I ever lose weight with so much to tempt me?
Judging by the shopkeepers figure he doesn't indulge in his own product too often or he does a serious amount of exercise!
In addition to tasting helva and lokum I was intrigued by the Macun seller. I had never seen this before. It dates from Ottoman times. It is a thick sticky paste, it comes in fruit flavours and it is wound around a stick like a lollipop. It is actually like a lolliop that hasn't hardened yet. I had to try it, it was seriously sweet and I feared for the few teeth that I have.

Macun seller.

HaS Metin finally found the girl of his dreams? She is of Yorük descent like him.

Meeting with the others again we set out for Yoruk Koy. Metin had seen it's location from the microlight so he "knew" the road. After several stops to enquire, we found ourselves on the most roundabout road to the village possible.

This was a truly lucky happenstance. As we left one village we heard the sound of drums. There were people drumming and dancing in the street. I immediately asked Sean to stop as a couple of the men were in traditional costume. He duly pulled in and Metin and I hopped out with our cameras. I asked was it all right to take their photos. They were happy to oblige, none of them wanting to be left out.

The wedding celebrations.

Metin gets his camera ready

I could feel the grin splitting my face as they danced and performed for us. A quick look at Hubbie and Sis -in-Law and it was apparent they were not feeling the love. The drums were loud and obviously grating to their ears. Yes they are definitely siblings!

Metin came back to tell me that it as a wedding celebration and we were invited in for something to eat and to join in the fun. All thoughts of Yoruk Koy left my head. What an opportunity!
However, by this time Hubbie was back in the driving seat and eager to be on his way. I told him about the invitation but he said we had to be on our way if we wanted to see Yoruk Koy.

The host approached me to invite us again but with regrets I told him, much as we would love to join them we had to be on our way. He had caught a glimpse of Sean's face and read the message there. I can understand him and Sis-in-Law as they don't have the language and are hesitant about trying new foods. But what a wasted opportunity.

We eventually found our way to Yorük Köyü. It is a village that continues to do things in the traditional manner. It is 750 years old. Yorük is a group of nomadic Turkish people. Metin  is of Yoruk descent. The name comes for the Turkish work yürümek, meaning to walk.
İn Yorük Köyü
There is a car park as you arrive in the village and we left the car there as we wandered through the streets. Like Safranbolu, some of the houses are open to the public. We visited one and the lady of the house would certainly sell coals to Newcastle. She kept us entertained.
sorry photo is overexposed but İ was taking it into the sun so had to fill with light so you can see the faces.......trials of a very  amateur photographer
When asked about our unusual table, it looked like an upside sled but the top of it was indented with rows of sharp stones, she explained it was for separating the wheat from the chaff. Alternatively, she gave a graphic demonstration of how if Sean or Metin misbehaved it could be used for beating their behinds. She had everyone in stitches, laughing. She then removed her headscarf and donned Breda's hat. She reckoned she was now "süslü püslü' dressed up to kill.

 Sis-in-Law got an introduction to gözleme, the lovely Turkish pancake. She has become a convert.
Gözleme cooking on the open fire

We met with several people in the courtyard as we ate. Interestingly one man was talking and mentioned that he was of Yoruk descent, from Muğla, about 20 minutes from Metin's home place. He was originally a tour guide but now is an English teacher in South East Turkey. He had a marked London accent. The two of them had a great chat about the Yorük culture and the different phrases etc. associated with it. He extolled its beauty and gave us his phone number in case we ever travel that far east.
The streets of Yorük Köyü

Not all the buildings are in good repair

There were flowers everywhere on the roadsides.
We returned to Değirmenci Konak,  tired from another action packed day. I headed for bed and got a good nights sleep. Tomorrow is another day. We will set off for Amasra, once I have had my early morning walk and another delicious breakfast .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Microflight over Safranbolu

As I said in an earlier post Metin was intrigued by the microlight. İ had seen brochures for it on the desk at reception.

He asked Servet about it and she said she thought it was not that expensive for the basic flight, perhaps about 50tl. Metin decided he would do it in spite of Hubbie and Sis-in-law thinking he had taken leave of his senses. İ would love to do it but an irrational fear of heights put the brakes on my enthusiasm.

Servet rang the company and they said that he could fly either after eight that night or 06.30 the following morning. Well, after eight would not be any good for taking photos and 06.30 a.m. would be very early.

The pilot then said it would be possible if we came now. He would come and get Metin.
We all wanted to go to see him fly. We decided to follow them in the car to the take off site.

The microlight looked like nothing more than a double buggy with wings. He was a brave man going up in this. İt was 100tl for ten minutes but he reckoned it would be worth it. Some things in life just have to be done once.

Soon he was geared up. Crash helmet on complete with microphone, maybe this would be necessary to tell the pilot to turn back. I hoped he had a clean pair of trousers with him.

I'll have to say I was envious. I wished I had the nerve, a bit of encouragement and I'd go up too. In the meantime a group of three arrived who were also considering their options. I put on my zoom lens and walked down the "runway" You'll have to forgive the abysmal footage I took. It was the first time I shot video using this camera and the zoom lens weighs a ton. But it will give you an idea of what it was like.


The second bit of footage was taken by the pilot. It is a steadier but terribly short.


Metin returned safe and sound and on an absolute high. He was working on me to "fly" He asked the pilot was I likely to have a heart reassuring!! I was so tempted, if I got really scared I would be the only one up there and the pilot could turn around and bring me back. 
Hubbie and Sis-in-Law were looking at me like I had two heads. Maybe Hubbie was counting on that insurance policy. It is a joint account so maybe he decided it was time for him to collect. However the pilot was going up I would definitely want to take photos.  I will have to wait for another time. 

Ready for takeoff.

Up and away

You can see the runway and the shed in the top middle of the picture.

The new town of Safranbolu

If you look at the house in the triangle you can see Degirmenci Konak where we stayed. We ate breakfast under the parasol.

This photo isn't as clear, probably the vibration of the Microlight but again you can see Degirmenci Konak, with the triangular garden.
Photo taken by the pilot. The camera is on the end of the stick

Proof it is Metin who went up. His friends will be very impressed.

Coming in to land.

Almost there.....sorry for pic quality. Had my zoomlens on and was having trouble keeping the plane in the photo.

Ready to touch down

Safe and sound

Victory salute.
Many thanks to Metin for the blog fodder for this post and his photos from the air.

Friday, July 15, 2011

An early morning walk.

Wednesday morning I was up at 07.30. Hubbie was peacefully snoring so I slipped out of bed grabbed the camera and set out for a walk. Early morning is a great time for photos as the streets are quiet.
I knocked on Metin's door. He is also an early riser. He is used to being up at 6 to water the gardens.
Sure enough, he was up and dressed, camera in hand and ready to go.

Metin at the garden gate.

We met Servet in the garden and she suggested walking down the canyon. Great idea, though I had slight reservations about walking back up. I had gone for a walk with Metin once, up the hills behind our house and had to pretend I needed to stop and take photos just to catch my breath. What overweight 53 year old woman wants to let a young fit "hunk" know she is on the point of expiration on what is to him a "gentle slope"

Setting off down the hill

My morning walk was everything I love about Turkey. The quiet streets, the greetings exchanged as people begin to make their way to work and plenty of fodder for my camera. I showed Metin how to use the macro button on his camera. He is a fast learner.  He is also a fast walker!

Metin practises his Macro shots.
 I took my time struggling to get the shots I want. It is back to the manual time for me. I was so frustrated. Across the canyon, were the beautiful old houses of Safranbolu but the sun was in the wrong position.

The light was wonderful but made it hard to get clear shots on the other side. I loved the lighting on the leaves.
Even Auto wasn't doing it for me!! Metin rambled on ahead and I soon lost sight off him. Not to worry, we were both happy doing our own thing and we would meet back at the konak.

The following are a few of the photos I captured that morning.

This man was happy to have his photos taken as he was on his way to work.

And this lady didn't know her photo was been taken. (I'm going to have to give in and learn to use Photoshop, I like my photos to show what is actually there but too many overhead cables in Turkey. Other sister-in-law will be delighted to hear my admission)

This is cannoneer's bridge, the small sign says this house is for sale.

And a comfy seat while you wait your turn to view.

The house for sale is not the only one with outdoor seating.

Everywhere you see evidence of outdoor seating.

These houses are all protected by UNESCO

Who else did I encounter on my walk?
Someone is keeping a watchful eye
A bee has a feast

Hard to distinguish this cat from the road
Another beautiful old house.

Some of the newer houses

One of the newer mosques
Old buildings, modern technology

Shutters don't preclude window boxes.
Experimenting with the art scenes on the camera.
Pinhole and b/w
  "We are all in the gutter.........
Flowers growing through the cobbles
 ................but some of us are looking at the stars" Oscar Wilde
Microflight, these pass over Safranbolu on a regular basis. The idea has been planted. Metin will fly, more of that in my next post. 
Finally we are back in a garden and relax with Servet before breakfast.
Sis-in-law tries to remove the ghostly look from her legs

Metin relaxes before breakfast, normally his busy time delivering bread and newspapers.
 He ponders on the microflight!

Servet joins in the fun.