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 . .
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!
this gives you a bit of an idea of the task
Exhibit A – first clear evidence of who does the graft in the thicket!
Exhibit B – drags all the stuff out and burns it
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 . .
our neighbour’s beautiful almond tree in blossom
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 . .
very neat and tidy
tools of the hedger – and if J says those are her gloves, she’s lying!
Exhibit D – so, whilst I was working my fingers to the bone . .
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!
I remember being taught that song at primary school – it never made much sense but then not a lot does at that age as we soak stuff up like blotting paper (the link is for those under 25 years of age). And like blotting paper our memories may be blurred but the marks and the lyrics are permanent. Which is why I still hum the ditty whenever J and I go to camel wrestling!
the camels coming – or possibly going
So, together with a couple of camel wrestling virgin friends, we headed for the village of Sinirtepe near Aydın for their annual, much advertised, Camelus dromedarius festival. The place was suspiciously quiet when we arrived and with good reason – they’d had their tourney on the 3rd of January! Ho-hum!
different venue, right idea
J and I prefer local, non-touristic venues and the price we pay is that information is sometimes lacking. The locals in Sinirtepe were sympathetic and in very short order they sent us on our way to a match being staged about 50 kms away at Bağarası. It could not have been a better introduction to the spectacle for our friends, It had everything – staged on a football pitch set in the middle of the shambolic industrial area, the parking was chaotic, the sights, smells and sounds exotic and the people wonderfully welcoming and friendly. Just our sort of place!
I know some of you might feel concerned that what we were supporting is some form of blood sport. It is not! The events are a continuation of a tradition from the days when camel trains and caravans criss-crossed Turkey and much of the Middle East and Asia. Traders would encourage the bull camels to do what they do naturally during the four month breeding season. The events brought camel owners together where old and new friendships were cemented, information and breeding stock were exchanged and a lot of feasting, drinking and wagering took place. Camel owners are easy to spot due to their distinctive dress: cornered caps, traditional scarves around the neck, jackets, special trousers and accordion-like boots.
I love these boots
his job is to secure the camel’s jaw to prevent biting and injury
These days the camels are bred for strength and fed and trained to build them up. Like football and much else it is no longer a poor man’s sport. J made some enquiries and a young animal will set you back around six thousand lira. A mature 12 year-old bull with much of its wrestling and breeding career ahead would cost between eighty and one hundred and fifty thousand lira. Bulls begin wrestling at about seven years of age and continue for about ten years some up to the age of twenty. When you add in the cost of food, veterinary care, transport and pre-festival partying you are talking a pretty penny!
that said, there was one very vocal lady owner
bull camel in all his finery and glory
With these magnificent creatures being so valuable great care is taken to ensure that no harm comes to them apart from a bruised ego if they go out in the first round! If an animal is reluctant or afraid to engage then the referee calls a halt. A win is signalled when one animal succeeds in pinning, tripping or totally dominating his opponent and two teams rush in to drag the beasts apart. Some contests can be like watching paint dry whilst others, especially in the later rounds with the best bulls, can be very lively.
Of great value is a good cazgır. He is the person who announces wrestlers or the wrestling camels – calls out the camels’ names. The cazgır reads poems praising each camel, adding colour to the contest. The cazgır, just as in two-legged wrestling contests, is the most important and colourful person in the competition. He treats a camel wrestling match just like a sport commentator at a soccer match.
Perhaps the most entertaining sights are when one camel has had enough and makes a bid to escape pursued by the victor. With bulls weighing in at between seven hundred and fifty and fifteen hundred kilos there are a couple of tons of tunnel vision thundering about. When pursued and pursuer head for the hills behind the spectators with their tables, chairs and barbecues the chaos and antics are like something from a Buster Keaton film. Do people get hurt? Rarely.
Whilst the stars are, without question, the magnificent bulls decked out in all their splendour and slobbering at the scent of battle (or is it female pheromones?) they are not the only attraction. The sight of thousands of Turks eating, drinking, socialising and dancing whilst wandering folk bands compete with each other for the rolled up bank notes that get stuffed into their instruments is something to experience. Add in the smells from countless barbecues and vendors selling camel sausage sandwiches and köfte with the aroma of rutting camels and your experience is complete!
camel sausage in a bun
our virgins getting the musical works whilst J is masticating again!
muzzle and bridle
The name of the competing camel is written on a piece of embroidered cloth called a peş hung behind the saddle, which is called the “havut.” Beneath the camel’s name is written the word Maşallah (May God protect him). ‘Arza’ in heroic pose and spraying pheromones all over the place!
Is it worth going to camel wrestling? Absolutely! For the spectacle, the colour, the noise, the smells, tastes and the welcome for a visitor. The camels love to have their ears scratched!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
ps Here’re the real Cam(pb)e(l)ls Coming Oho, Oho!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Yesterday, from outside I heard the phone ring. J answered, ‘Günaydın Bayram. Nasılsınız?’ (Good morning Bayram (our muhtar). How are you?). I turned back to the job in hand at my temporary workbench of making a chopping board that would fit over the kitchen sink.
stow the silly remarks, that includes the assembly jig for clamping and glueing
Conversation over J wandered to the cabin window, took a couple of photos of the only worker around, and said ‘Bayram is asking us to be at the school tomorrow. Something about a white flag and some people who want to meet us. I told him we were away but would try to be there.’ He had, apparently, sounded disappointed that we were unable to commit.
Now, the reason for our prevarication was simple enough – ‘the workers were revolting!’ Well, not exactly ‘revolting’ – not even remotely. Let me explain; the electrician had missed out fitting a socket in what will be our ‘cozy’ corner. When the fridge was delivered there was no electricity and so service were waiting to complete the installation/guarantee process. Finally the carpenters, with just a few hours of work to finish off, had bogged off to a thermal spa for a few days! All of these guys were scheduled for Tuesday.
Tuesday was the closest we could get to a ‘definite maybe’ time with any of them and as we have learned from experience, there are 24 hours in any given day give or take a few more either way! Having seen the electrician who was carping that he was busy and would ‘do his best’ to make it at some point, we put him off until our next visit. We then spent an anxious day fretting as the hours slipped by. Just as it was getting dark the carpenters arrived and set about blasting saw dust all over the place!
bedroom and bathroom surrounds nearly finished – just the main door to go
In the middle of it all the service arrived, took a few interior photos to show their friends on Facebook, and sorted the fridge.
So, with everything that could be sorted sorted, we were up at the crack of dawn this morning and ready to hit the road back to Okçular.
sunrise over the lake
We had no idea what was planned at school. What we found was a playground full of children and their parents and friends. Tables and chairs were laid out by classes with tables already laden with food that each of the families had provided.
J and I were met and escorted to the ‘protokol’ table populated with the mayor and a multitude of managers and other ‘suits’!
view from behind the roses at the top table
Speeches and explanations of the White Flag followed: it seems that our village school has been thoroughly inspected and has qualified to fly a special flag that denotes that it has passed all the health, hygiene and clean environment criteria. It was a great compliment to the regular staff and to Yeliz who takes care of the gardens and general cleaning.
Okçular school staff together with Education Manager, Mayor and Muhtar
It was also an honour for J and me to be included and for the contributions to the school that money from the Okçular Book Project has made over the years to be recognised by the senior education manager.
Now we are back home we have a week to prepare before we return back down the rabbit hole together with a lot more tools and my trusty ‘Work Mate’. Having failed to find anything we like very much to furnish our lakeside cabin in the mountains I’ve decided to do most of it myself starting with the divans for the ‘cozy corner’. Tomorrow it’s back to the pile of logs lying outside the gate!