'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Economic Migrants

So, after being totally traumatised when Muğla central police station lost our original application for long-term residency during the change-over from the old ways of doing stuff, the new staff and system have completely redeemed themselves.

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I do understand that police stations can’t actually lose anything and anyway, I doubt the paperwork is lost – I bet it is still in the bottom of some filing cabinet drawer along with a whole bunch of other applications from people we know!

Six months, almost to the day, since the applications were re-submitted, an SMS arrived – they were on the way from Ankara! The tracking system functioned fine and on the first working day after they arrived in Ortaca the delivery guy rang to get our location. We’ve even had an SMS to tell us they’d been delivered to us in case we hadn’t noticed!

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These days the permit arrives in a white wallet sponsored by Turkish Airlines ‘Miles & Smiles’ – you can’t keep the world’s favourite airline down!

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look carefully at this photo and you’ll see that Ortaca police are also kind to street animals

Thanks go to the delightful and very helpful police lady in Ortaca who got all the duplicates together and then rang and pleaded with Murat at the Migration Directorate in Muğla to see us and get everything sorted asap. He did! Forty minutes after we walked through his office door we were on our way home – job jobbed!

Unless the elixir of life turns up in the form of a wine bottle we’ll never have to go through this stuff again. These long-term permits are valid until 31st December 2099 – gawd help us if we forget or don’t last long enough to renew – trust me, you really don’t want to fall foul of the bureaucracy here!

Alan Fenn, a legal, long-term economic migrant in Turkey.

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

All Change!

J and I had been expecting to be zooming up to our mountain hideaway tomorrow (Tuesday) for the finishing off of our cabin, but ‘the best laid plans . .’ etc, etc! Well, ‘Burası Türkiye!’ ‘This is Turkey!’

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we view certain things differently, J will immediately notice the spelling mistake – doesn’t worry me, I’ll find a use for it some day

Since we were last there, we have been gathering up stuff that is surplus to requirements here and boxing them up ready to start their new life up there. J has been gleefully clearing out cupboard-loads of stuff that hasn’t been used in 18 years but that I have been reluctant to get rid of because ‘ it might have come in useful one day’. That day has arrived! My plan-ahead, long-term strategy (J calls it hoarding) has been vindicated!

Between cleaning the dust off suddenly useful stuff/objects and packing them in boxes there has been time to clean up  some long-relegated-to-the-garage wooden shelves and put together a couple of stools made from firewood.

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we bought the tea maker in Erzurum 15 years ago – never been used

Anyway, back to the ‘best laid plans’ scenario – the chippy had been hoping to have the kitchen units and the wooden windows finished and ready to install but several days without power at his workshop set him back. So, Thursday will be the Grand Opening Day and, with a bit of luck and a tail wind, if all our threads come together we may well be able to spend our first night in our new hidey-hole. What is amazing is that it is just three months to the day since we first had the title deeds in our hands!

The delay was just as well, because at 10 o’clock this morning we had a somewhat delayed delivery of this lot . .

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our annual supply of villagers’ firewood

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three hours of graft later we’d made a serious impression on it as you can see (not)!

Burası Türkiye! In so many wonderful, unexpected ways.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Don’t Believe It!

Two weeks back – is it really that long ago? – I put you in the frame about the plot of land J and I have acquired in a delightfully quiet part of the back-of-beyond. Our expectation was that, with luck and a tail wind, we just might be able to get things sorted, cabin-wise, and then look forward to escaping Okçular’s summer heat next year.

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After the fiasco with the digger word seems to have got around because there I was, up a ladder painting, when the phone rang. It was our main man from the other end of the ‘rabbit hole’. ‘You should come and drink tea with the mayor, he wants to help you.’ ‘When does he want to see us?’ ‘Now! He is waiting for you in his office!’

Seriously! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! By the time we’d cleared up, showered, shaved (not J – well, not that day, anyway!), and driven nearly three hours it was mid-afternoon before we got to his office. As it turned out he’d gone to a funeral anyway and didn’t get back for another hour and a half! I have to say that, when he arrived, he was not at all like any other mayor we’ve ever met in Turkey, striking to look at, engaging and dressed very casually. Taking tea and chatting was like having an audience with Jesse Ventura – Different!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was kind enough to offer us a corporation digger and driver for the next day for as long as the work took. In case you are wondering, these things have to be paid for at an hourly rate of 100TL, about £20.

Being ‘English’, we were waiting at the edge of the village at the appointed time – an hour and a half later the machine turned up with its charming, smiley driver/operator. Yet again we’d let our foreign sense of time overrule local practices – the triumph of hope over experience! Mind you, when you see what we were getting for our money, it was well worth the wait . .

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What is amazing is that our plot neighbour came to help and spent the entire day directing and ensuring the job was done properly and exactly as we wanted. We could never have managed without him.

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The plot has not been tended for about 15 years so a lot of scrub had grown up and needed to be cleared. The scrub will be made good use of for firewood and goat food. The place where the cabin will go was then levelled and an access route made.

You will recall that, this being a protected area, we cannot make any permanent structure. I said we were going to use the chassis of an old mobile office as the foundation for our cabin. We had made no actual moves yet to purchase said chassis so you can imagine our surprise and delight to find this parked up at the end of our access track . .

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It had taken three guys many hours to cut away the office from the chassis because all the bolts were rusted solid. By the time the truck got it to where you see it, it was 11pm! It succeeded in being what they had hoped for – a ‘Büyük Sürpriz!’ a Big Surprise! We still have to pay for it, but aren’t people wonderful?

So, after the clearing and levelling, the next job for the digger was to tow it on site . .

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Is that it? Have we done with the digger? Nope! As we will need a soak-away it was decided that that should be dug whilst the machine is available . .

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Hole dug, the mayor was contacted to say thank you and fix the price for five hours work. Can you believe he didn’t want us to pay anything by way of welcome! In the end we insisted that he must, at the very least, let us pay for the diesel fuel and we ensured the driver got a bonus.

Next, a phone call had a local usta arrive who specialises in things like soakaways and the like. He looked at the job and then, in line with custom, everyone sat or squatted down to make the bargain/deal. (some pretty wonderful people have and are doing an awful lot to help us make our dream project a reality – it would be great for you to be able to see their smiling faces – not possible for many reasons).

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Deal struck, the usta jumped in the hole and set to work and within a day the job will be capped and finished – like to see you get a builder to come and do a small job at the drop of a hat!

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In the middle of all this the man who is reputed to be the very best blacksmith/steel constructor in the whole of this area arrived following a summoning from a ‘certain someone’  to discuss the framing of our wooden cabin. Turns out he is the bee’s-knees and will oversee the whole project, including fitting-out. We have now agreed stage 1 price and he has given a guaranteed start and finish date.

It would be great to be able to show you the full team but discretion is required. Here are a few views from this trip by way of compensation.

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from the plot

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a  stone’s throw away

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the view from the cabin with the main-man

So, there you have it. What was going to be a one-nighter turned into three and each day was filled with wonderful surprises. Some pretty special, selfless people, neighbours and bureaucrats joined with us and brought so many threads together. I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, us or them! Oh, before I forget. A guy from the water cooperative turned up and invited us to join three or four others who also want water for irrigation to lay a new pipe that will pare the cost right down. Yet another piece dropped into place.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (but actually on Cloud Nine)

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Magnificence Of The Mountains

‘Never stop wondering, never stop wandering.’ – William Morris, English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist.

‘RAJA’* stopped for a moment, stood still and gazed up at the mountain as it loomed darkly above the tree-line, its sides streaked by great, fat fingers of snow that were slowly dissolving into torrents of melt-water under the relentless rays of the June sun.

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(Richard Field)

Away to the north west the storm clouds were building. Towering billows of blackness laced with great, jagged streaks of lightning, boiled their way towards us. We had got this far, there was no turning back! This was the stuff of ‘Boy’s Own Annual’!

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Amazing – the light was just beautiful

J and I had tried on several occasions to find our way to Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake that lies at about 1800mts (5900 feet) on the north slope of Sandras Mountain. Washed out tracks had stopped us a long way short every time. So, when dear friend Ahmet suggested we try again, we jumped at the chance of an extra shoulder to the wheel should I get our trusty but much abused Doblo stuck. In fact, as we had another friend, Richard stopping over on his mammoth motorcycle journey through Europe, Turkey and the ‘Stans’, there’d be two extra shoulders if push came to grunt!

This is a pictorial account of our trip. It is also probably the only time in history when three socialists and an anarchist – comrades, have set off on a journey together and actually arrived at a destination without falling out, fighting or splitting off and forming another faction! This gives me hope!

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The early stages were easy with plenty of time to admire the world a thousand metres below and for Richard to practice his fuzzy-foto technique.

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This is the land of beautiful lakes, upland meadows, flowers galore, 1000+ year old trees and majestic views:

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(Richard Field)

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Muscari aucheri

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unidentified Orobanche

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the border between Muğla and Denizli provinces

1280 year old black pine1280 year old Black Pine (says forester’s plaque)

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it’s a surreal landscape

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Corydalis erdelii

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Colchicum szovitsii

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Scilla bifolia

We were forced to stop by washed out tracks about 2kms from our objective and had to hoof it to the lake.

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J making a point about fitness

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first views of Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake

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(Richard Field)

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(Richard Field)

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snow-melt amidst the Scilla bifolia

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life and the world in perspective

What we had was a great adventure as we ground and maneuvered our way across loose scree and washed-away tracks. The glorious views and freshness of the air were only trumped by the feeling of electricity lurking in the dark storm clouds. As we turned our back on Eagle Lake the heavens opened and the clouds engulfed us – our timing had been perfect, we could not have asked for more – even getting soaked through felt part of the joy of being in such a remote and beautiful place. There is a gathering of nomadic herders some time in August so I guess we might have to suffer the journey all over again!

” ‘I went a little farther,’ he said, ‘then still a little farther — till I had gone so far that I don’t know how I’ll ever get back…’ ” Joseph Conrad The Heart Of Darkness [p.78]

‘There is so much here that I cannot capture on camera, and what I do barely does justice to the beauty of it all. The scenery I passed through yesterday and this morning was staggering. It simply took my breath away.’ Richard Field travelling through Turkey

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

* RAJA is an acronym for Richard, Ahmet, J and me.

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Bottoms Up!

Relative peace has returned to Turkey and to our quiet corner. The election is done but not dusted – now come the smoke-filled rooms and the shenanigans and (in my opinion) the ‘Night of the Long Knives’!

There are two blessings to be counted. First, those bloody awful vans plastered with portraits of political wannabes that go around in convoys blasting out ghastly music have disappeared back from whence they came.

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sorry, wrong picture

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Second, the relentless march of Sauronesque authoritarianism has been checked (for the time being). Shalob has been exposed to the Light of Galadriel . .

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Shelob

. . and Samwise Gamgee has risen to the occasion.

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Sam Gamgee aka Selahattin Demirtaş

The significance of the breakthrough of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) into mainstream politics here in Turkey cannot be overstated. The apparently unstoppable RTE hi-speed train has been checked. The courageous gamble by, what was a largely Kurdish political movement, to broaden its platform in order to appeal to the wider population and thereby break through the 10% glass ceiling has paid off. They have secured 80 seats, 31 held by women, in parliament, which gives them a considerable lever.

With the governing party’s overall majority gone the three main opposition parties could form a coalition and govern. But, that which divides them is probably greater than any common ground beyond their envy and hatred of the AKP and Sauron the Dark Lord. So, the AK Party will be looking to stroke the egos of either the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) or the HDP. If either one of those joins the AKP they will, I believe, sow the seeds of their own destruction. In the case of the HDP they must resist the lure of (apparent) promises for short-term gains in resolving the many Kurdish issues. Such an alliance would be a betrayal of the broader electorate they have garnered and as of the time of writing the party has rejected any cooperation with the AKP.

Will there be a coalition? In my opinion it is doubtful that there can be an effective minority/coalition government and so the possibility of a re-run looms.

So, what of the near future? Sauron is weakened and Saruman aka the Prime Minister will either resign or be pushed. Waiting in the wings is the co-founder of the AKP and former president – a Rose by any other name. He withdrew from the limelight after being, as he saw it, betrayed by Sauron, the present incumbent and a number of his close party hacks.

This rose is not without thorns but he is a constitutionalist and deeply opposed to an executive presidency. With the departure of Saruman, who is also leader of the party, the way would open for our Rose to take the reins of the party and, assuming there is a re-run, stand in a safe AKP constituency (or force a by-election). Also in the mix is the Witch-King of Angmar who once led the Nazgûl  intelligence agency of Mordor and was a right-hand man of Sauron until he was dished by the Dark Lord. Will he emerge as a king-maker in the AKP?

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Witch-King of Angmar and former Lord of the Nazgûl

If, and when, it comes to a re-run the mixture will have changed dramatically – if Mr Rose is back then many who deserted the AKP because of the malign influence of Sauron will no doubt return to the fold. What then for the HDP? There will be no guarantee that they will have the 80 seats they now enjoy and they might well slip below the 10% anti-Kurdish barrier once again. Things are not always as simple or as bright as they seem.

For those who wish to better understand where the HDP is coming from here’s a link to an English language blog

With that in mind, J has come up with a very sensible and soothing calmer for any jangled nerves – a sort of comforting Dinneford’s Gripe Water with different side-effects – the recipe is below.

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1 bottle of gin (any old rubbish will do); 1 bowl of black mulberries (black makes it look nicer); a few jam jars. Method: put berries in jars, slop on some gin and leave for a few hours. Decant and enjoy regardless of the bloody elections, inflation, deflation, etc, etc.

Bottoms Up, guys!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps this morning these beauts were flowering – Galadriel’s Lights!

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