Your Heart Is Just A Beatbox For The Song Of Your Life

A chance encounter on Twitter reminded me of one of my Turkish road trip stories when we made one of our many sixteen hour journeys from Tinky Town back to Ahmed’s family in Kahramanmaraş

You may remember Ahmed’s reluctance to spend money and subsequently on one overnight trip when our hunger pangs got the better of us we decided to stop for something to eat. Ahmed speedily passed all the brand new roadside inns and pulled up in a tiny remote village alongside a ramshackle building with a corrugated iron roof.

I was less than impressed with Ahmed’s choice of venue but not altogether surprised nevertheless at this point as I was so famished and tired that I grudgingly climbed out of the car, slamming the door behind me to register my displeasure.

On walking through the door the biggest surprise of all was hearing the golden tones of Wynonna Judd coming from a ropey old sound system in the corner of this tatty café where the only customers were two elderly Turks drinking çay, sat amongst the mismatched plastic tables & chairs. Well I thought if it’s good enough for Wynonna it’s good enough for me and if the worse should happen and I should perish from food poisoning then at the very least the last thing I would hear would be a decent tune.

The elderly Turk behind the counter sporting a white apron informed me “very, very good girl” pointing to a very old but treasured picture, taking pride of place on the wall “you know her”?

I assured him not personally but I was the very proud owner of the Judds’ greatest hits CD which I had played to death especially “Grandpa“. How could one not be a fan of Wynonna; she has the voice of an angel, is a fellow animal lover and as a bit of a wordsmith myself who appreciates a great lyric, sings some kick ass songs.

My mood lightened and I relaxed whilst Ahmed placed the order which was swiftly delivered to the table by the elderly waiter. A few minutes later calling to his colleague he turned the volume up for “Mama he’s crazy” and accompanied by the other two customers performed a traditional Turkish dance to the melody. I’ve never laughed quite so much but I’d like to think I was laughing along with them as they hopped up & down waving their white napkins in the air and singing the word “crazee” with abandon.

It occurred to me as they danced that Wynonna had probably never dreamed that when she recorded this track it would be playing in a dusty old café on the other side of the world but I felt sure somehow she’d approve of people united in laughter and music, regardless of race, culture or religion, on one crazy hot summer’s night in Turkey.

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It’s All About Me!

I was interviewed the other week by the good folks over at PAYAway. It’s a cracking website packed full of information for anybody thinking of moving or working abroad, in fact I wished I’d discovered it before I took the plunge. Anyhoo, here it is although most you will already know the story behind my move to the beautiful country of Turkey but for those that don’t, here it is in The Working Traveller.

Most of you will also know that my beloved old Dad had a stroke last year so I’m back home in Devon because for now that’s where I need to be but rest assured as soon as the old fella’s back on his feet, I will be dusting off those flip-flops and heading back to the golden sands of Altinkum. And for those of you that haven’t yet dipped your toes in the sparkling aquamarine waters of the Aegean off the glorious Turkish coast, you should go.

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Footprints

When I asked for volunteers for the story/photo collaborations, I was delighted when Suzanne over at the travelbunny stepped up as I have long been an admirer of her work, particularly her Turkish pictures which remind me of sunshine days and happier times. In fact I have one of her pictures as a screen saver on my laptop to lift my spirits on blue days. I’m grateful that she agreed and I hope you like her pictures as much as I do.

On one of my forays into Didim shopping centre, I decided to browse the Saturday morning market on my own. Not always an easy task, as most of the stallholders spoke little English. This particular morning as I was struggling to understand a wizened old lady selling chillies; an American woman seeing my discomfort translated for me in fluent Turkish. She was a stunning looking mature bohemian lady who exuded style and joy. I’d seen her a few times weaving around the market in her big floppy hat and designer sunglasses, stopping for a chat and smile here and there, or to make a purchase. Her laughter was musical and infectious which matched her sunny disposition.

“Call me Nia” she said “Back home it’s actually Lavinia, but that’s not so lovely is it” she giggled “But then that’s the beauty of being an expat, you get to start over. I’m guessing you’re not a holiday maker judging by your purchases so if you live here I’m guessing………….it must be for a Turkish man.Let’s catch a çay over there in that café and you can tell me all about it. I’m a romance junkie so I’m dying to hear your story”.

Over çay I learned that she had lived on her own on the outskirts of Altinkum for several years tending to her animals and garden. She was an American with a family back home but divorced and to her regret, she said that she’d never had any children but as she had travelled the world so much, she’d never settled down long enough to start a family. She had flown to Turkey after the breakdown of her last marriage, become enchanted by its magic and somehow never left.

 

“Dallas, life isn’t all about playing safe, but of course, you already know that or you wouldn’t be here. It’s about finding what makes you happy and doing it; and if you happen to find someone along the way that you love and loves the same things you do, then you’ve found the secret to happiness. Even if it’s only for a short while but grab it with both hands whilst you can and when it’s over move on with thanks in your heart for the love you’ve received”

I thought then that perhaps that was a maudlin thing to say but didn’t dwell on it too much as Nia soon had me laughing with tales of her Turkish neighbours. She told me that she lived on the outskirts of Maveshir on the sea front and suggested that I visit her.

So a few days later, Ahmed dropped me off at her house on his way to the Cash & Carry. We stopped en route once or twice for directions and when we pulled up, I was amazed to see that she lived in one of the whitewashed beachfront villas that I had so admired. The surrounding gardens were also lovingly cultivated and full of the colourful Mediterranean flora and fauna that I had become accustomed to. As I opened the gate I was greeted by two street dogs that Nia had adopted and as with many a rescue animal, I never failed to be amazed by their trusting natures despite their often poor treatment at the hands of humans.

Nia was gardening and shouted a greeting so I made my way to the front of the villa to where she was tending her plants. The view was breath-taking and I felt that I arrived in a Mediterranean oasis and each time a breeze blew past me, I caught the heady fragrance of the surrounding flowers and citrus trees. I envied Nia her little Turkish paradise and as she finished up weeding her little vegetable and herb plot, her face was aglow with pride and contentment. I could tell that she was completely at ease with her surroundings and had clearly found the secret to her joy.

I followed her inside where she suggested we sit down and indulge in some of her homemade lemonade. The villa was every bit as stunning and stylish as the outside, framed pictures filled the walls of her villa, which was simply but tastefully decorated. She seemed to have had her picture taken with nearly every Head of State over the past twenty years not to mention a few celebrities. One of her ex-husbands had been a diplomat she explained and they had travelled extensively. She laughed when I enquired about ex-husbands and explained she had three but the real loves in her life she had somehow never got round to marrying. She admitted she was a free spirit and had married to keep her old Bostonian family happy but regrettably it hadn’t worked out and neither had any of her other marriages but she remained on good terms with all the men that had been an integral part of her life. She confided in me that she lived here alone but she said that although it had taken her a lifetime she had at last found real peace and didn’t miss her old lifestyle at all.

I saw her frequently over the next year or so; often we’d meet up for a çay and a chat. She had a way of making shopping expeditions so much fun and I was grateful for her continued friendship. As summer rolled into Autumn she cancelled a few of our outings claiming a migraine but the next time I saw her, I knew that it was something far more serious although she laughed it off with her usual charm. I noticed that she tired easily when we did meet up and our days out would be cut short as she excused herself on some pretense or other. As we took leave of each other at the end of another successful shopping trip, she hugged me fiercely and said

“Remember Dallas, we pass this way only once and life is far too brief to spend one moment being bitter or regretful”.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but that would be the last time I saw my good friend. A short while after she disappeared from my life as quickly as she had swept in without fuss or ceremony. I heard that her family had come and taken her back to Boston; her phone was disconnected and her villa deserted with the “For Sale” sign hanging forlornly outside. All traces of my vibrant friend were just an echo now and I wondered whether the next owner would cherish it as much as Nia had. Hellos and goodbyes are such an integral part of life in Tinky Town and many friends pass through and touch your lives for such a short time but with such heart which makes them hard to forget along with the lessons which they taught you.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same

― Adlai E. Stevenson II

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Aim For The Moon; If You Miss, You Might Just Hit a Star!

I’ve made the papers and not in a “kiss & tell” kind of a way either as predicted by my old headmistress. In fact the closest I ever got to a celebrity was when Kevin Costner whizzed past me on a golf buggy in Istanbul airport and I restrained myself from running after it stalker-like screaming “Kev I love you”; as I knew I may have been detained by security and my story could have ended so very differently.

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So how surprised was I when on one of my trips to the tatty little Kahramanmaraş internet café, where everyone knew my name, to open up an email from Andy Probert, the editor of Voices, Tinky Town’s English printed newspaper asking if he could serialise the Honeymoon Stories.

There and then an uncoordinated and very vocal happy dance was performed to the bewilderment of the other clientele who had already become accustomed to the craziness of this English woman.

I owe a big debt of thanks to Andy, who is a journalist of some twenty-six years standing both in the UK and Turkey, for taking a chance on me. I am pleased to report so far so good and no posse has been ‘rounded up to run me out of Tinky Town just yet.

To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author. Charles Caleb Colton

Homeward Bound

I’m back! A little weary to be honest and back to work tomorrow; what was I thinking! It’s been a bitter-sweet few weeks; the camera which my Dad painstakingly chose and bought for me as a Christmas present was stolen along with all my holiday pictures.

The only internet access I managed was thirty minutes a day in this tatty little internet café sat amongst some very inquisitive Turkish youths with gravity defying locks; think Duran Duran! The café owner was neither a big smiler nor my biggest fan and wondered why I wasn’t at home in the kitchen barefoot & pregnant. I was initially a bit of an achy face with access to WordPress being a bit hit & miss but I did have great fun in sharing some of your Facebook pictures and YouTube postings with the same curious young Turkish boys that can only dream of other lives in faraway places.

So please bear with me, it’s going to take me a while to catch up, I’m glad to be back sleeping in my own bed without waking up nose to nose with another family member who doesn’t have four legs and fur; always a bonus!

Normal service has been resumed!

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My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready To Go

Overwhelmed and bone tired is the best way to describe how I’ve felt over the past few weeks. I think we’ve established that I really am not cut out for a career in nursing and the additional overtime I have been working has taken its toll. My Dad has at last relinquished my laptop having spent a marathon couple of weeks streaming various programmes in an effort to alleviate the boredom of recuperation. I am way behind on posting and catching up with you all; if I’m honest I think that I may have lost my way a little.

Regrettably, Ahmed has decided to remain in to Kahramanmaraş reluctant to leave his first salaried regular job for something less reliable in a coastal resort; which whilst I completely understand was something I hadn’t prepared myself for. So I’ll be flying off to Turkey on an epic journey to the mountains where I’ll be spending a few weeks and not lying poolside in the sunshine for a rejuvenating holiday as I had hoped. I’m not sure what to expect or even whether I will have any internet access. It’s certainly not the dream Turkish life I had hoped for, living in a small traditional Turkish town miles away from the coast and no expat community nearby; but I’m going with an open mind and open heart because at the end of the day that’s all I can do.

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God gave us a gift of 86,400 seconds today, so I’m using one of those to say “thank you”.

I received my renewal notice today from WordPress, which reminded me of my early days of blogging when I thought that the only person that would ever read my blog would be my Mum. Well I got that bit wrong, as she doesn’t!

As a new naive blogger I remember looking through all your sleek glossy blogs with the beautifully written posts and stunning photographs. I never thought I’d ever “get that good” and in so many ways I never will. I still break into a cold sweat whenever I have to insert links and it takes me the best part of the day to get it just right; and I do the happy dance whenever I manage to upload pictures into a post!

Beyond any shadow of a doubt having all of you drop by to share laughter and the odd tear has made this journey, the stuff that dreams are made of. I have so many of you to thank for being there from the very beginning when I was a stranger in a strange land, in dire need of a friend or two. As I tried rather unsuccessfully to master the art of blogging, it truly made a difference reading a “like” or a comment or two. I got a shedload more than I ever expected and I will never ever forget your kindness.

So in true Tinky Town Trashtacular style, this award goes to all of you for sticking with me, it’s been a real rollercoaster of a voyage but it’s been made all that more special by having all of you along for company.

Saw This & Thought Of You!

Saw This & Thought Of You!

Please feel free to share the love and pass it on to those extra special bloggers that make your day. No rules, no questions, simply just because you can!

For The Love Of Annie

Karen Wren runs a small animal shelter in Didim, Turkey trying to save abandoned and injured street dogs along with feeding up to eighty other hungry mouthsforest dogs on the beach, at the side of the road and in the forest each and every day. Sterling work don’t you think? There are no thank yous for this type of hero, because that’s exactly what she is although I don’t think she would thank me for saying that. Often when they are no funds, she is the one who puts her hands in her pocket to buy that much-needed dog food particularly during the leaner months when the tourists have all gone home.

About a month ago their shelter was flooded leaving dogs homeless with nowhere else to take refugeflood – imagine the horror of discovering your life long work gone overnight. But fight back they did and have cobbled together with make do and mend. In addition to the daily practicalities of running the shelter with little or no facilities and driving around Didim to feed starving street dogs, Karen has to raise funds and update their Facebook page in order to let their friends around the world know howflood 3 treatment is progressing on injured and sick dogs and equally as important, post details of pups who are looking for a new home. They rely on donations for medical care, food and funds to transport some of the dogs back to the UK where they will have a chance of a better life. Amazingly, a miracle happened this week and they won a competition which will give them enough funds to buy a vehicle, which will mean that they will no longer have to rely on lifts or taxis to rescue injured or sick animals.

Very few stories touch me in the way that Annie’s and Aydin’s have. I was reading through my Facebook feed last week, with a mug of hot tea and one of my Dad’s famous banana sandwiches,annie & aydin when the poignant picture of two very young pups caught my eye. I don’t think I will ever forget that image of the two melancholy young dogs who had been so maliciously treated, cuddling up to each other for comfort. Annie had been thrown from a tractor on a busy main road with her brother who was killed by a speeding car and was found cowering over his body. Later that day Karen also collected Aydin who had again been discarded by an evil individual who had cruelly burned his ears off when he was just a matter of a few weeks old. aydin The damage was so bad there was nothing left of one ear and the other was so badly damaged, it had to be removed too. Within seconds of being put into the back of the car with Annie, frightened Aydin snuggled up to her and they have been inseparable ever since. Annie is currently quite poorly and Aydin is also receiving regular vet treatment for his injuries, all of which is being funded from a few meagre donations and Karen’s own savings. She hopes to find them a loving home together when they are well enough so that she is able to provide a safe haven for the next injured and sick pup. Many times despite the loving care, a lot of the dogs are just too poorly or have been too abused to be saved and this is when Karen and the rest of the volunteers must possess super human strength to be able to get up and do it all over again the following day, never knowing whether the next one will make it either. Cruelty to the most vulnerable is abhorrent to most of us and yet there appears to be no deterrent, so inevitably it will happen repeatedly. So tonight before I go to sleep, I will say a silent prayer of thanks for Karen and the other volunteers like her around the globe that endeavour each and every day to make the world a better place.

But for now, can I ask you do one thing for me today, as I know that we’re living in a world where we are bombarded with pleas to like this or that picture and donation requests, but how great would it be if some of you shared the Turkish Animal Group details or The Turkish Animal Group (T.A.G.)- Dog Adoptables; it won’t cost you anything, just a few seconds of your time and yet it will make a significant difference to Annie & Aydin, not to mention all the other Aydins and Annie that are still waiting for Karen to save them. What are you waiting for, go on make Annie’s day!

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Man Gives The Award But God Gives The Reward

I have been very lax in recent weeks regarding award posts which doesn’t mean for one second that I don’t appreciate the nominations, however, my real life has been a little demanding of late.

So I would like to thank the following lovely bloggers for nominating me for the Leibster Award. So big thank yous to theinnerwildkat and Odie & Odie Mamma @ eyesOfOdysseus. Now there are a shedload of rules but I’m just going to answer Kat’s well thought out questions on this occasion and suggest that as we’ve all had a very busy start to the New Year, I am going to invite those that are interested to join in with no pressure, leaving the link in the comments below so that we can all check out your answers.

1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
I inherited my Dad’s big feet so I’ve always wanted dainty little ones.

2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
That’s easy I wanted to be a cinema usherette in an old fleapit cinema

3. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
One of our cats for the privileged lives that they have.

4. What one movie can you watch over and over again and never get sick of?
Under The Tuscan Sun

5. What talent do you wish you had and why?
I wish I was more artistic and could paint or cook.

6. If you had to pick one famous person of the same-sex to have a man or girl crush on, who would it be and why?
Denzel because he’s some long drink of water and has a voice like melting chocolate.

7. When you think of historical figures, who do you most admire and why?
Elizabeth I, because she was one of the first women in history to do it her way.

8. If you could be a professional athlete, what would be the sport you’d like to be a pro at?
Tennis

9. What was the coolest thing you have ever done for someone else?
I arranged a falconry lesson as a birthday surprise for my eldest niece but as we all turned up picnic in hand, it was a golden day for the entire family and that was the best gift of all.

10. What are you most afraid of and why?
The loss of a loved one

11. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date and why?
Blogging, of course, which has been an unexpected blessing and I have all of you, to thank for that!

the-liebster-award

A Little Bit Of Perfect

We continued driving up into the mountains, all eleven of us together with the goat, on the way to Grandad’s House in the remote village of Karatut. The weather was getting colder and the snow deeper, as we carried on up the steep dirt track roads, buildings were fewer and other traffic almost none existent. However, the scenery was breath-taking and the stuff that movies are made of. I was enchanted by the wild grey foxes who startled by the engine noise, ran alongside the edge of the tracks .

Fortunately, I was unable to see the sheer drop from the road down the side of the mountain, or I am sure I would have been holding my breath for the remainder of the journey. We eventually drove into the village which was a scattering of basic structures; although despite the village’s remoteness there were still satellite dishes dotted along the tops of the buildings. This was Turkey at it’s most traditional and a lifetime away from resort life and foreign visitors.

Most of the villagers were intrigued by the new arrivals and stopped and peered in the car windows, some of whom were known to the family. I was particularly alarmed by a smiling elderly woman who sat outside her house holding a rifle across her lap but fortuitously for us still managed to wave a greeting with her empty hand.

We carried on driving through the village and came to a halt at the top of a dirt track with no visible houses. balcony Man, women, child and goat alighted from the vehicle carrying various bags, pots and pans and then started climbing down a steep incline which led to a wooden house complete with a wraparound balcony nestling along the side of the cliff and amongst the trees like something from a Grimm fairy-tale.

Having removed our shoes, as is the custom whenever you enter a Turkish home, I was surprised when we walked into an immaculately clean small hallway leading onto a salon where again a soba oven kept the room toasty. There was a basic kitchen in one corner and in another primitive showering facilities. Tapestry floor cushions were scattered around the homely room. All the family greeted their grandfather in the Turkish respectful fashion of kissing his right hand and then touching it with their foreheads.

Grandad was a wizened old soul with a particular fondness for moonshine Raki and a twinkle in his eye, who was equally entranced by my mobile phone pictures of home as I was by the loveliness of his. Despite his advanced years he had lived in this village his whole life and now entirely alone since his wife had passed several years earlier.

As I looked around the salon, I couldn’t help but wonder how this large family managed any bathroom privacy. One of Ahmed’s brothers sensing my unease jokingly told me that the entire family showered together whilst soaping each other’s hard to reach places and then translated for the rest of the family which made them all laugh uproariously. As we continued to sit there laughing and joking whilst drinking çay , I couldn’t help but think that many of us had lost some of this family harmony and tradition and I hoped that I would be taking home, along with the usual holiday souvenirs, something a little more enduring which would remind me of these truly golden days.

The view from Grandad's House

The view from Grandad’s House

That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.
Henry David Thoreau