Ambushed!

Okçular-Village-Guide_1This coming year will see the gradual winding down of the Okçular Book Project. It was started by way of giving something back to our village for all the love and support we have been given since we were fortunate enough to land in the lap of this farming community.

Originally conceived as a small booklet that would tell a few stories, that could be sold to raise a few lira that could be used for the benefit of the community, the project mushroomed into two guides that over the years has raised thousands upon thousands of lira. To say that our expectations were exceeded would be a gross understatement!

With the exception of two items, a playground in the village centre and a village photo archive, all other projects funded from the books have centred around the school. The creation of the beautiful murals and gardens with Gülay Çolak and Fiona MacRae that so transformed the formerly drab, utilitarian seat of learning came first.

gulay fiona

Fiona and Gülay

the old geezer

the Old Geezer bending his back . . again!

mural crewthe murals crew

This was followed by wi-fi for the whole school; bicycle racks; a library in every classroom; the restoration of a beautiful old wooden outdoor chess set and making a tiled board; the funding of a complete science cupboard.

chess

Ok school watering sys

Okcular school10

Recently the book money provided an agricultural-grade watering system that will keep the garden plants and young trees alive throughout the long, hot summer holidays. This was followed by steel railings to protect the the system and the plants from over exuberant ball games. And there is still plenty of cash in the kitty to do more as needs arise!

So, you may well ask why we feel it is time to wind the Book Project down – it’s a good question. The answer has everything to do with need for complete rewrites and re-vamping of both guides which would entail a huge amount of time and work and the fact that neither of us is getting any younger and there are many other things/projects we want and need to find time for.

Anyway, moving on – 23rd of April is National Sovereignty and Children’s Day here in Turkey and each year we go down to our village school to show our support for the efforts of the children and teachers in their celebration. Here are a few photos to give you a taste:

Okcular school3

Okcular school4

Okcular school5

 

Okcular school6

Okcular school7

the pre-school class getting their ducks in a row – sort of!

Okcular school8

okcular school9

Part way through the proceedings J and I were startled to hear our names and a summoning over the audio system. Mystified and a tadge embarrassed in front of all the children and parents, we gathered at the rostrum where there followed a fulsome thank you from the head teacher for the support given by us through the Book Project over the years. As I shuffled my feet, J was presented with a wonderful armful of flowers and promptly burst into tears!

Okcular school1

Okcular school2

. . in the national colours of Turkey, too!

Alan Fenn, ‘Ambushed’ but very happy to be part of Okçular Köyü

Ambushed!

Happy Ever After

About three years ago a delightful young lady by the name of Anna learned about our village primary school. Anna, who was also at primary school in the UK, was shocked when she realised that, compared with the facilities that she and her fellow pupils enjoyed, our children had to get by with very basic equipment.

cake bakeKnowing that one of our school’s dreams was to have a science cupboard she set about the business of turning dreams into reality. With a bit of help and support Anna baked cakes and biscuits that she then sold at a ‘Cake Bake’ stall. In all she raised the princely sum of £100 which was handed over to the school on her behalf when her nanny came out to Turkey on holiday.

Anyway, as often happens here in Turkey, suddenly everything changed. First it was announced that the state was going to supply science equipment to primary schools and so our staff waited to see what would materialise before spending Anna’s gift. They waited, and then they waited some more! Nothing! Then came the great reorganisation with primary, secondary and high school divided into a 4:4:4 system. Before anyone realised, three years had gone by and poor Anna had no idea how her money had been spent (or in this case, not).

It was with some relief that J and I had a call from the school staff to say that they had learned that the state wasn’t going to come up with anything so could we please get back on course with the science cupboard. We met with them and together with Anna’s £100 we guaranteed a further 700 lira from the Okçular Book Project funds and ‘Voila!’ our school now has some really good quality equipment for the children to use.

Most of the stuff, as you would expect, is made up of boring things like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, slides and the like. Pride of place goes to a beautiful, top quality microscope and two figures for anatomy lessons. So, on behalf of Anna whose initiative really got this ball rolling, let me introduce you to ‘Osman’, a really old Turk, Mike O’Scope and some of the Cupboard Crew.

Okcular village school science cupboard

l-r head teacher Erdal, ‘Osman’, teacher Mahmud

Okcular village school science cupboard

gruesome twosome – Osman and Brainiac

Okcular village school science cupboard

So, a really big ‘thanks to you Anna’ from the present and future pupils of Okçular İlkokul (Primary School).

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Happy Ever After

A Bit Of A Shower

J and I got back from Iran to a couple of things (apart from a mound of emails) that are not every day matters, especially at this time of year. First, there was a lot of unseasonal but very welcome rain – cloudbursts even. Second, there was a group of walkers from Manchester that we’d committed to take on a hike through our mountain paradise.

It very soon became apparent that the two were linked – the ‘Shower’ from Manchester had brought their notorious weather with them! They also turned out to be a bunch of  (mostly) experienced ‘yompers’ who were delightfully interesting company to boot! I’ve never been one to believe that ‘interesting hikers’ was, like ‘military intelligence’, an oxymoron – although there are some X-Box players who do!

some intermittent drizzle

IMG_2143_1 IMG_2144_1_1 IMG_2145_1_1 IMG_2146_1_1 IMG_2147_1_1

followed by a right old shower

IMG_2138_1_1

Anyway, we had a great time together as they showed me up by being totally unaffected by the heat and inclines whilst this old ‘Boffer’ had leg cramps for the first time in his life. Such was the pity that they felt that at the end of the walk they made a very generous donation to the Okçular Book Project as well as buying a good number of books. What can I say? Our children and village thank you – a deluge of generosity from the Manchester Shower. May your walks be life-long, filled with gentle sunshine and may Lancashire win the County Championship (Not much chance of the last two, eh! You could always try Premium Bonds!)

Alan Fenn, recovering in Okçular Köyü

ps I will get around to Iran Life stories

A Bit Of A Shower

Lucky Dip

A couple of weeks back Jay Artale of ‘Roving Jay‘ blog fame and author of the ‘Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide‘ website and book dropped a non-to-subtle hint by posting a link from my blog to Facebook. In a posting about two years back I’d promised to put the names of the first hundred FB and Google+ followers in a hat and draw a couple of winners. With the passage of time combined with sticking synapses the whole idea had vanished into the misty, cobwebbed compartments that is now my mind.

Okcular Book ProjectThe prizes, if you can call them that, were copies of ‘Okçular Village a Guide’ which is part of the Okçular Book Project, you can read more here. That said, the book has had three separate reviews by Today’s Zaman newspaper and Cornucopia, a most prestigious magazine, did a great write-up and has included it in their book lists. As for it being a suitable prize for a blog following that is spread throughout a number of counties, I can only respond by pointing out the this very modest guide to our very small village and its less than modest natural wonders, has been sold via the internet from China to the US, to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all over Europe as well as here in Turkey.

Anyway, spurred on by Jay’s nudge in the ribs, two lists were drawn up and my J drew one winner from each. There was a small delay whilst I sought permission from each to publish their names, which are: Fatos Mert and Natalie Sayın!

Fatos is a teacher working over in the east of Turkey and I hope the book will ‘warm the cockles of her heart’ as she huddles by the soba on the dark evenings ahead. Natalie does a lot of things but is probably best known for her wonderfully successful ‘Turkish Travel Blog‘. I’m particularly delighted for Natalie because when I first considered starting this blogging lark she, along with fellow bloggers Jack Scott and Karyn Phillips were mines of information and sound advice. She is also the reason that an expedition will be mounted next year to the darkest valleys of the Kaçkar Mountains to hunt out a blue slug that shouldn’t be there – but that’s a story for another day!

I hope you enjoy the read guys! It would also be nice if you check out the Book Project and, if you feel so inclined, do a bit of promotion in any way you can – the children of our village benefit from every ‘sale’ that is made.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Lucky Dip

Another Drop In The Ocean

Turkey is in turmoil, entering a third week of protests against a backdrop of tear gas, rubber bullets and excessive police repression – this is not a happy country right now! It’s hard to know what to do, especially as a foreign resident without a vote. We have a voice via the internet but if we are too strident we risk censure – foreign criticism is a sensitive issue in this intensely proud nation.

I often pontificate that we should ‘put our money where our mouth is’ rather than grumble or mutter over a beer in some bar. Move the mountain one stone at a time – put our own drops in the bucket and all that sort of stuff. Easy to say, less easy to do.

That said, J and I are luckier than most. Thanks to the Okçular Book Project and all of our supporters at home and around the world we have funds available that may not cure all that ails this beautiful country but can, at least, brighten the day for some of our fellow villagers. This is the story, with pictures, about our village primary school’s end of year outing . .

DEKAMERFollowing a chat with the teachers, who had to overcome a load of bureaucratic crap for permission, we decided to take the whole school for a visit to the DEKAMER Marine Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at İztuzu Beach near Dalyan. Although only 10 kms away we had been amazed to learn that most of the children knew nothing about the place and what it tries to achieve. We arranged for all the children and staff to be fed an early lunch of pide (Turkish pizza) and ayran, a deliciously healthy yogurt drink. Then it was on to the buses and off to the beach . .

ayran and pide

ducks in a row

There our group was met by one of the volunteers who did a terrific job of explaining everything and introducing the children to some of the deeply traumatised ‘patients’. Perhaps the most poignant was a 65 year old Caretta that had suffered severe head and back injuries from an unguarded boat propeller. Another had lost a front limb after becoming entangled in fishing line.

65 years old and in care

Our volunteer ‘teacher’ did an amazing job and it was a delight to see how much the children were engaged with her and the subject at hand.

engrossed

After some excellent educational films a series of questions and the enthusiastically correct responses from the children and our teachers convinced J and I that this had been a really worthwhile effort.

bonding

The volunteers were thanked and the Book Project gave the children a 100 lira note to donate to the centre. A perfect ending to a perfect day – another little drop in the ocean so to speak!

donation from Okçular school and Book Project

Alan Fenn, for the Okçular Book Project

 

Another Drop In The Ocean

Cornucopia

‘Cornucopia’ – a Horn of Plenty; a symbol of abundance. So says my dictionary and so says anyone who picks up a copy of this magazine which is always filled to overflowing with wonderful and fascinating stories and information about Turkey.

Can you imagine my delight when the editorial team asked to be allowed to place this book on their list of prestigious publications? Below are links to their home page and to the book together with their review.

Thank you Cornucopia for supporting the Okçular Book Project and all that we are trying to achieve.

 Cornucopia: The award-winning magazine for connoisseurs of Turkey
 OkBook_resize_260_377_80

OKÇULAR VILLAGE

A Guide

By Alan Fenn

Published by The Okçular Book Project

£10.00 / $15.36 / 27.75 TL
(Based on day rates)

BOOK DESCRIPTION

 A window onto a remarkable village, living happily out of the limelight that bathes Dalyan, its more famous neighbour on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Okçular is at the heart of one of the most important and biodiverse bits of countryside in Turkey, an untrammelled paradise, but to remain so it had to win a landmark battle not to be turned into a quarry and cement factory. This is an extraordinarily touching book, in Turkish and English, and very much a village production, full of firsthand village stories. The story is a rare and heart-warming one in Turkey these days in which nature and commonsense win the day over destructive commercial interest, a beacon for others in the same predicament all over Turkey. The author and publishers, who live in the village, have produced the book to raise funds for local environmental and community projects.

The village of Dalyan, on a reedy lagoon between KöyceğizLake and the Mediterranean, may have become a noisy, brash little resort, but it is no newcomer to environmental campaigns. This book starts with a tribute to one famous local, ‘Kaptan’ Jane Haimoff, who sparked the ultimately successful nationwide campaign to preserve the Irztuzu Beach, breeding ground of the endangered Mediterranean Loggerhead turtle.Less known is a neighbouring village’s equally triumphant campaign to preserve the Kocadere gorge. Okçular is Dalyan’s more innocent, inland neighbour. It stands on the once-malarial alluvial plain formed by the Dalaman River before an earthquake changed its course. In the 1960s, the villagers rolled up their sleeves and, ‘using whatever tools and materials they had to hand and their own skills and muscle power’, dug drainage canals across the plain, and malaria became a thing of the past. Of good nomadic yörük stock, that is the sort of village Okçular is: ‘its people are true Salt of the Earth’.

To the north of the village rise the snow-covered peaks of Sandras and Çal Dağ. To the south is a much smaller, but no less beautiful mountain, Kösten Dağı, and the Kocadere gorge, carpeted in spring in cyclamens, anemones and orchids.If you were a developer faced with an old gorge untouched by herbicides, what would you do? Make a quarry, naturally, with a cement factory alongside. Which is precisely what was going to happen to the Kocadere gorge. In went the road for the cement-mixers.

Alkanna-mughlae-critically-endangered-endemic-005_1But the developer had not taken into account the villagers of Okçular or the endangered yellow-flowering Alkanna mughlae (shown left). A photograph put online by the botanist and author Paul Hope set alarm bells ringing among botanists in Ankara. And there was more to come. The gorge turned out to be a corner of astonishing biodiversity. Questions were raised in the highest places. The project was squashed.

But Alan Fenn’s book is not about the campaign he and his wife did so much for. It is about the village they fell in love with. It tells its history, introduces its senior citizens, in their own words, and it offers six splendid, practical walks on Kösten Dağı with accurate maps, and a chapter on the astonishing flora and fauna, including its 23 species of dragonfly and its equally endangered salamander. Throughout, there is good sprinkling of photographs, though one does wish for captions – maybe they could be added in the next edition. On the other hand, you can find all the information you need from the authors’ website, ‘Archers of Okcular‘.

And all in the best of causes. Proceeds from sales of the book go to community and environmental projects – how to put right the ghastly developer’s road, getting the school painted with murals, creating gardens, providing an outdoor board for the school chess club, and so on. And the thing is, don’t just read it. Do it. ‘A good starting point for exploring the area is the Ley Ley Restaurant on the Ortaca–Dalyan road,’ writes Fenn in his introduction. It is ‘also the perfect finishing place as the meals there are excellent and very reasonably priced.’

John Scott

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Cornucopia

Doing A Bit Of Touching-Up

Sistine Chapel ceiling (Wikipedia)

. . now we know how Michelangelo felt after skylights were fitted to the Sistine Chapel! Eighteen months after our crew had completed the nearest thing to perfection since Banksy did a tin of TESCO’s soup; eighteen months after adding the last dob of paint to the wonderful murals at Okçular Village Primary School, the powers-that-be came along and fitted fine new double-glazed windows throughout!

Now, we are not against new windows which meant that the kids didn’t have to squeegee the water out of the classrooms every time it rained. Nor do we think that the workmen were careless of the murals as they carried out the replacements. Inevitably there was going to be some damage and repairs would be needed. There was no point starting if there was a chance of rain so we hung-fire through the winter months, which was just as well because not many weeks ago back came the workmen to re-roof the entire school, fit guttering and down-pipes, repair the toilet blocks and do a bit of re-plastering here and there. All very nice, but a bit of touching-up had turned into a make-over!

Our team consisted of two artists – Gülay and Fiona; a semi-artist – J and one dog’s body – me! Funding for the original project and several other things around the village comes from the Okçular Book Project, we welcome your support – you can learn more here. Meanwhile here are a few before and after photos and an invitation to drop by the school any time you are in the area – you will be made very welcome.

 

half a clown is better than none – salvaging what we can

Gülay – nearly done

damage around windows and the ‘down pipe problem’

done and dusted – brilliant Fiona!

J mending bee hives

scene with ‘extras’

‘Bubble, Bubble . .’ the coven gathers!

If you need a bit of touching-up you know where to come!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Doing A Bit Of Touching-Up

Annie Get Your Won!

Last post my Spell Checker took a dislike to ‘had had had’, or words to that effect! My Spell Checker is an arse that often takes a dislike to stuff I write – ‘arse’ is a good example – if I write a post on this machine running (mutter mutter) Microsoft Windows Blah! it wants to spell ‘arse’ as ‘ass’. In Inglish like wot she is spoke; an ass is a donkey (Equus africanus asinus) – it is also, by extension, a Bloody Fool; which perfectly describes my Microsoft Spell Checker! On my other machine, which runs the very civilised Ubuntu open source operating system, it is never a problem – by definition it understands Swahili and English and every other language in this universe – and the next!

Anyway, as a result of my irritation with Microsoft Spell Checkers, I rashly posed a challenge to anyone who could be bothered or who had nothing better to do, to demonstrate the superior power of the human intellect over the bloody machines from hell by answering the following – ‘how many times can ‘and’ follow ‘and’ in a sentence and make sense?’

There was a prize to be won! An ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’ book or an ‘Okçular Book Project’ t-shirt in 100% cotton, one size fits all XXL.

There is only one answer; and only one winner – Annie from the delightful ‘Back to Bodrum‘ blog – she wisely chose the book (gawd knows what she would have looked like in an XXL t-shirt with a tree on the front).

The Okçular Book Project exists to serve one purpose – to raise funds for environmental and community projects within our village. All income from sales of our books goes to this end – nothing is taken by way of commission or expenses. To date funds have been used to provide the children with a play park; we’ve decorated all of the junior school buildings with magnificent murals, created gardens and planted flowers and trees; we restored a wonderful, ‘antique’ garden chess set and provided an outdoor board for the school chess club. Next we created a village photo archive and publicly display some of the wonderful old photos at the village centre. Finally, we’ve provided wi-fi for all the classrooms, a library of reading books, expensive toner packs for photocopying worksheets and racks for 20 bikes at the village school. We want to do so much more.

Don’t forget, if you are coming to our area and want to do some serious walking or cycling then there is the essential ‘Backways and Trackways’ guide available from our village website Okcular.net or the ‘Book Bazaar’ tab above, a remarkably good aid to exploring the area.

Congratulations Annie! Here’s hoping you enjoy the book – and here’s hoping you’ll become an ‘ambassador’ for the Book Project (every coin has an obverse and a reverse – or so I’m told).

Oh, yes! Annies’ answer – ‘A greengrocer has a sign outside his stall, it reads Fruitandveg for sale, shouldn’t it have gaps between “fruit” and “and” and “and” and “veg”?’ Which is spot on; although I always used a FishandChip Shop myself!!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Annie Get Your Won!

‘Thank You!’ – ‘No, I Thank You!’

Okçular Book Project Promo

The Okçular Book Project is not something I go on about a lot – especially on this blog! The reason is simple; the project is very localised and unless you live within a reasonable distance or are planning a holiday in the area and enjoy walking/cycling then it is of very limited interest. The fact that my books have been sent around the world to the likes of the US; Europe (of course); South Africa; Australia; New Zealand and even China is a source of utter amazement to me.

J and I started the project as a way of putting something back into this ordinary little farming village that adopted us as family and gave us a feeling of belonging that neither of us had ever had before. Our aim was to encourage people to visit and enjoy the natural wonders that are taken for granted by those of us who live here. The books part people from a little bit of their money and then we use that money to fund worthwhile projects for the community and environment in Okçular – it is working a treat!

Your money has given the kids a play park; funded the fantastic murals at the village school; provided the funds to restore an ‘antique’ wooden, garden chess set  and provide an outdoor playing board for the school chess club; helped fund a village photo archive.

 

not much to look at but it gives the whole school access to the web

A couple of weeks ago we agreed to fund a few extras at the school that will make a difference on a daily basis: a rack for 20 bikes; wi-fi that covers the whole school; two toner packs for the photocopier used for worksheets; six complete sets of reading books – enough for every student to have a book to take home during the holiday, separate from their class books.

J and I were chuffed no end to be able to do these small things for our village. It is thanks to you guys out there who buy and promote the ‘Okçular Books’ and you deserve credit too. In fact, if you drop by you’ll be able to share in the school’s ‘teşekkur’. How is that? you ask. Well, yesterday we were summoned to school where J was presented with a beautiful, traditional coffee set by way of a thank you from the teachers and kids. Her delight when she carefully unwrapped the box and realised what the gift was, was written all over her face.  ‘Thank you! Teşekkur ederim!’ she exclaimed. ‘Hayır! Ben teşekkur ederim!’ cried the teachers in unison (No! I thank you!). So, if you drop by (book in hand) we’ll be happy to serve you Turkish coffee in our delightful new cups so that you too can enjoy one of  the pleasures of being part of this wonderful project.

J getting her just desserts!
Oi! You lot - get on with your lesson!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

‘Thank You!’ – ‘No, I Thank You!’

Intrigued No More!

In the immortal words of J Paul Bremmer (former Arch Viceroy of Iraq) ‘Ladies and Gents; we’ve got ‘im!’  He (for it is indeed a ‘He’) was caught Rhode Island Red – Handed by blog follower Lindsay Knevett. The mystery is solved ! This warped individual was found in possession of the swag and trying desperately to increase his ill-gotten nest-egg by incubation. What a pervert!

Rhode Island Red Cock caught stealing shoes
Rhode Island Red Cock caught stealing shoes

Local amateur naturalist says, “Foxes – smoxes! It was the Reds under the beds, as I always said! It woz Cocky Locky wot dun it!’ The Kangaroo Court and lynching will follow in due course.

Well done Lindsay for this citizens arrest – there has to be an Okcular book in it for you next time we meet up!

Alan Fenn, Okcular Village

Intrigued No More!