'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Odin, Send The Wind And The Rain

I’m not sure how to put this, but I do have a confession to make. A couple of days ago, for the second time in my life, I was with a group of people who were praying for rain! Really!

This time J and I were at a nearby village called Işıklar about 20 minutes drive away over the hills. We’d been invited by our new friend and family doctor who, in turn, had been invited by the muhtar/village headman. The fact that the village was laying on food for everyone who attended had, I’m sure, no bearing on the numbers who showed up!

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locals and guests tucking in

J and I had planned to get there a little early and have a wander about. It was not to be! I’d no sooner got a couple of shots of a beautiful acacia and the ancient graveyard with its very interesting wooden ‘gravestones’ than we were collected by a welcoming local who escorted us to the communal feasting.

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Part way through the feasting we were all called to order by the imam. Those of us at table remained where we were whilst the devout gathered in two groups in the mosque yard – men in one and women in the other. Five minutes of exhortations for rain for the animals and rain for the crops followed with many an ‘Amin, amin, amin!’ (Amen!) in response.

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I had no wish to be disrespectful of these kind people so kept photos to a minimum

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It was interesting to note that whereas normal Muslim prayers are made with the hands cupped upwards, in this instance they were cupped downwards. Once prayers were over it was back to the all-important business of eating, chatting and socialising.

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so, here we are feeling replete with Şafak, our delightful new friend and family doctor, and our community nurse and her daughter (photo courtesy of her son)

Anyway, I told you that this was the second time I’d been involved in one of these ‘rain-dance’ things. The previous time was way back in 1963 and I was a young squaddie doing basic training at the Parachute Regiment Battle Training School in Brecon, South Wales.

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As any fool do know, Wales is always wet – bloody wet! Now, on the day in question it had not been raining but, having spent hours crawling about in the bogs, we were soaked through and feeling very sorry for ourselves. Our platoon sergeant was a certain Danny ‘The Beast’ Hadden and he was not known as ‘The Beast’ without reason. Here he is cropped out of a group photo – this was one of his good days as you can tell. Focus on the eyes and tell me if you can see a soul in there!

Danny 'The Beast' Hadden

Anyway, Danny was probably the best psycho-type (you decide which) on the planet in those days. He could see into your innermost, secret self and select just the right triggers to get whatever he wanted. He was a master manipulator. He knew we were terrified of him but he wanted more – much more!

He had us line up on a track rather like the one above and made great play of ensuring that we were facing east towards the Land of the Gods. Then, on our hands and knees we raised our arms towards the heavens and called out ‘Odin! Mighty Odin, send the wind and the rain!’ This we did three times and as we finished the third incantation the heavens opened, there was thunder and lightning and a deluge to float the ark! Now we were not just scared of the Beast, we were in total awe! Naive little sprogs that we were, we hadn’t the nouse to realise that you only have to look towards the west to see the squalls coming in to impress a bunch of shaking, miserable recruits.

Now, I expect you are about to point out that the part of this tale that is set in Wales was totally predictable. But what, I hear you ask, is all that nonsense at the mosque praying for rain about? Well, as I sit here writing this (3pm Tuesday, May 3rd) we have thunder and lightning with torrential rain and hailstones hammering on the roof of the cabin!  Oh, ye of little faith! You are free to think whatever you like, but J and I are eagerly checking the ten day forecast and awaiting an invitation to yet another neighbouring village for more free food rain prayers – lord knows, we could do with it!

Alan Fenn, stuck in a cabin in the mountains

Incredible Okçular!

Children’s Day – A Little Turkish Delight

I don’t think J and I have missed a Children’s Day since we first became associated with our village primary school. Nisan yirmi üç (April twenty third) has been burned into our diary for a long time. We couldn’t forget anyway because there is always a phone call from the staff to keep us on track!

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Children’s Day here in Turkey was instigated by Atatürk in the early days of the Republic. Here in Okçular it’s a chance for the children to lay on a show for their parents and grandparents. It is also a day when even the tiniest tot will have a chance to bellow greeting or slogan into a microphone!

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Every class gets to dress up and dance, recite or perform a skit – this year it was all dancing.

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the youngest danced dressed in regional costumes as they assembled a map of the country

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Then it was the turn of other classes to turn on the style . .

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There’s a prize of a Mars bar to the first one to spot mum in the crowd!

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the top table is all very well . .

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. . if you can see through the wall-to-wall photo-ops

Part way through the proceedings there was a pause for presentations to parents and a local business couple who have helped the school through the year. We’ve been caught on the hop by these surprise presentations ourselves previously so we were enjoying cheering on the latest group of recipients as they smiled awkwardly and shuffled from foot to foot in front of everyone.  And that was when they caught us again!

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Then it was back to the festivities . .

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‘Turkey is my life’ – may reality never intrude

Followed by photo credits to a great staff . .

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. . and finally, that all-important endorsement from Yeliz

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Just a taster of what was a delightful morning for us. J and I love these people, this village and this country. May these kids grow up in a world free of conflict and may humanity learn that we have more in common than we often think and any difference is only skin-deep.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Time Lapse

I need to prioritise more and that is a fact! When we wandered back to the cabin this last time we knew that all the big, pressure jobs were jobbed. We were going to relax, potter, wander about, do the odd things that were always waiting, blog and J was going to spend time preparing her presentation on a moneyless world.

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Nothing short of stopping to smell a few roses – our beautiful Isparta Roses!

It was not to be – good stuff as well as jobs got in the way!

Friends flew in from the UK and spent a week based at the hotel across the lake. They were, by turns, amazed at the beauty of the lake and surrounding areas, thrilled as para-gliders descended from the mountains, caught ogling men in rubber and roped in for interview as obvious foreigners.

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diver

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Then J decided that she absolutely needed a garden table made from a pallet . . .

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I’m entitled to look happy, it could have ended up like this . .

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Anyway, back to the narrative – the lovely guy who built our dry-stone wall presented J with a bag-full of mixed seeds . . .

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. . . which required that irrigation system be expanded to incorporate the vegetable garden!

veg garden irrigation

Meanwhile, Ruddy Shelducks are flying over the cabin every morning and down to the lake –

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image from chum at ‘Birding Turkey’

 . . . and we watched Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars digging in to pupate (I know I’m going to be vilified in some quarters for not murdering them (and neither of us smoke)).

pine processionary caterpillars

welcome

. . and put up the sign my dotty sister sent from UK!

Then there was the day we took our friends to the village of Akçaköy, birthplace of the great Turkish author and activist Fakir Baykurt. (J is going to translate some stuff about him and then I’ll write a post some time) ‘Fakir’ means poor or impoverished in Turkish and Akçaköy, the home village of the blacksmith and the carpenter who built our cabin, must look pretty much as it did when he lived there.

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a couple of examples of occupied homes

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Recently there has been a very interesting collaboration between the state, which granted access to land around the village, a very interesting local veterinary environmentalist who donated plants and the villagers who provided the labour. The objective is to plant vast acreages of lavender which will be tended and harvested by the villagers and sold on to the veterinary who will process the crop at his facility which produces natural lavender and rose products. We were amazed at the scale of what has been achieved in a very short period of time.

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lavender stretching off into the far distance

All of this, though, was not the main object of our interest in Akçaköy. A year before Fakir Baykurt died in 1999 a library, dedicated to his grandmother, was opened in this still impoverished village. It is open to all but is there specifically for the children who use it five days a week. It is an astonishing legacy from a man, born into poverty, who, because of Atatürk’s dream and the vision of others like İsmail Hakkı Tonguç, went on to graduate from one of the Village Institutes. With the gift of enlightenment he grew into one of Turkey’s great men of letters – a ‘wordsmith’. His life and the library he left to his village has inspired generations of village children to read and study. His true legacy, however, is to be found in the well-above-average passes of children from Akçaköy moving on to University.

Here are a couple of photos from the village library, the story is for another time.

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the reference room

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one of the reading/study rooms

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friend Patrick ‘salutes’ the source of a great concept

Finally, as we drove in to the village we were spotted by the family of our blacksmith and greeted like long-lost family.

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. . and whilst there are butterflies and beautiful knockers to be found I’m there with a camera!

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Scarce Swallowtail

beautiful knocker

So, ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ got in the way of a bit of blogging resulting in an overly long tale. We came back to Okçular in time for Children’s Day and I’ll tell you about that and the surprise that went with it in a few days.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Resemble That Remark!

In my last posting certain individuals, who shall remain nameless, like Jack Scott and Lesley Mason made some disparaging comments that implied that J did all the heavy work around here whilst yours truly sat around taking snapshots and offering advice.

To pinch a line from the Marx Brothers, ‘I resemble that remark!’ I felt deeply hurt and cut to the quick because, actually, the reality here in our mountain retreat is quite the reverse – 100% the other way round and I have accumulated the evidence over the past two days to prove my point. But first I need to set the scene . .

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sunrise yesterday

We were up early so as to make a start at clearing the undergrowth down the side of the plot. We needed to expose the tons of rocks that we want used up to construct the stone terrace across the area for cultivation. Those of you wondering about the gang due to start the other day – it’s a long story for another time!

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this gives you a bit of an idea of the task

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Exhibit A – first clear evidence of who does the graft in the thicket!

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Exhibit B – drags all the stuff out and burns it

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Exhibit C – whilst J stands around looking decorative and posing for photos

Meanwhile, we were never too busy or whacked out that we forgot to enjoy what lies on our doorstep . .

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our neighbour’s beautiful almond tree in blossom

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mistletoe

complete with mistletoe in bloom (zoom in to see it)

Any road up, as they say in Yorkshire (in deference to a certain lady of my acquaintance), time to get back to the truth, the nitty-gritty of who does the heavy lifting around here . .

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very neat and tidy

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tools of the hedger – and if J says those are her gloves, she’s lying!

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another view

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Exhibit D – so, whilst I was working my fingers to the bone . .

a hot shower

Exhibit E – J was pampering herself – I rest my case

Alan Fenn, recovering with a couple of rakıs.

ps knowing that at some point J is going to read this stuff I want state for the record that a) this post is a pack of lies and a total misrepresentation of the truth. b) I’m pleading the 5th, and c) I’ve applied for the witness protection programme!