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Archive for June, 2009

Chickens in their natural environment. A big barn.

Chickens in their natural environment. A big barn.

 

The man on the left gave me a meal which included cucumber. Not wishing to waste the end bits, he made little horns for us both.

The man on the left gave me a meal which included cucumber. Not wishing to waste the end bits, he made little horns for us both.

I happened upon the open day of a cherry fattening factory. Thin cherries go in, water is added and this is the fat cherries coming out.

I happened upon the open day of a cherry fattening factory. Thin cherries go in, water is added and this is the fat cherries coming out.

These gravestone dont have anything written on them and theyre all leaning at rakish angles.

These gravestone don't have anything written on them and they're all leaning at rakish angles.

When Mum came to join me she had a camera with loads of spare battery power and such. This is a link to the photos she took.

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from Abbie Lear
to Mikey Lear <mikey.lear@gmail.com>
date Jun 24, 2009 10:22 AM
subject From Abbie
Dear Mikey,
I need to do a Project on an Islamic country for my homework. I have decided to do Turkey and you can help me with that. I need to find out what the weather is like what Turks eat ,any traditions they have and some fascinating facts about Turkey e.g the currency. Abbie
from Mikey Lear
to Abbie Lear
date Jun 27, 2009 12:47 PM
subject From Abbie

Dear Abbie,

Excellent choice. Here are some of the differences between Turkey and England. Turkey is massive and England is quite small. I think you could walk across England in a few weeks but it takes at least two months to walk across Turkey. Turkey is really hot in the summer and there’s a big bit in the middle where it doesn’t rain. There are loads of fields with crops in, but they have to be watered with water which is pumped up from 150m underground (that’s the same distance as one and a half football pitches). I don’t know what it’s like in the winter but you can probably find that out from Wikipedia.

Turkish people generally eat sitting on the floor. First they put a tiny little stand on the floor which is about 6 inches high, then they put a table cloth on the stand and on top of the table cloth they put a tray with all the food on it. Everyone sits on the floor with their legs crossed and puts the table cloth over their feet. I’m not totally sure if this is to stop crumbs going everywhere or to stop your feet being between you and your food or both. Then, instead of having a plate and your own food, you just have a fork and you all eat from the same bowls. And there’s always bread, so sometimes instead of getting your bit of chicken with your fork you can get it with a hunk of bread. When you finish, you sit back from the table and when everyone has finished the mother (or one of the women) clears everything away. Then you have tea and you can sit on a chair again.

Not many people drink alcohol and no one eats pork. Getting married is quite different as well. Before you are married you aren’t meant to touch any girls (if you’re a boy) and even up till your marriage day you shouldn’t touch your wife. If you want to marry someone then you have to ask your parents and then they have to ask the girl’s parents and then if everyone agrees, you get to meet her and talk to her. And then if that goes well, you get married later. The marriage takes three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday is the actual ceremony and the first two days are just partying. I became an expert on all this stuff when I went to the Henna Night of a Kurdish wedding the other day. I didn’t quite get why it was called the Henna Night, most of the evening was spent dancing – funny dances which all involved the boys holding hands with each other and the girls holding hands with each other, and funny music played on instruments I haven’t seen before. You can Wikipedia all that if you can be bothered. Turkey is kind of Western though and so I think the “no touching before marriage” rule is mostly ignored. Anyway at the wedding I went to the bride was dancing hand in hand with the groom quite flagrantly for one of the dances.

Another thing that’s different is that they all totally love their prime minister. Not the one they’ve got at the moment, I have no idea who that is, but the one who founded Turkey. He’s called Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and he died about 70 years ago and they all love him. There are pictures and statues of him everywhere. Every police station, school and military post has a statue of his head outside, mostly gold, and there are portraits of him all over the place in restaurants, petrol stations, offices and even in people’s houses. I tried to use youtube the other day while I was here and it turns out that youtube has been banned in Turkey because some Greek kids posted a video which insulted Atatürk. I may have made up the details, but you can see in the fourth paragraph of this article that insulting Atatürk is actually a crime here. Luckily no one wants to insult him, they only want to tell me how great he is. One of the things he did was to call the country Turkey, and another thing he did was to decide to use the Roman alphabet instead of the Arabic one. Which I’m grateful for because it means I can read road signs and such.

Regarding the last part of your email, either you’re taking an amusingly cynical approach to your project or you have a very different idea of what’s fascinating to me. Just in case you really do care, the currency here is Lira, and every single note and coin has a picture of Atatürk on it.

I haven’t checked any of my facts but I doubt that Mr. Cobb will either so don’t worry about it. Love Mikey

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Mum’s story

I arrived in Istanbul at lunch time with the aim of finding Mikey before midnight. (more…)

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Route

Here’s my route through Turkey. From Edirne to Istanbul I followed the E5 (pr. “ehbesh”) which is a big filthy main road which goes through a handful of massive cities and a whole load of factories. I was braced for it being grim and it turned out to be great, thanks to Turkish people being awesome.

  • Captain Andrew
  • Edirne
  • Havsa
  • Babaeski
  • Lüleburgaz
  • Çorlu
  • Silivri
  • Büyük Çekmece
  • Beşiktaş, İstanbul
  • Idealtepe, İstanbul
  • Suburban Sprawl, İstanbul
  • İzmit where I stayed at Nizam’s plastic factory and left the E5.
  • Doğançay
  • Taraklı where I started to feel out of urban sprawl and more in the mountains.
  • Nallıhan
  • Across the Sarıyar Barajı which is a river which runs black
  • Mihalıççık, which is marked on my big map so I assumed it was some sort of substantial community. The sign proudly said “Population 4000” making me laugh out loud.
  • Hamamkarahisar where I met Mum
  • Günyüzü
  • Various other villages (Mum has all the details)
  •  Özyürt
  • Sevinç
  • Sülüklü

I’m heading for a massive salt lake called (in Turkish) Saltlake, and then I’m going for Adana, Tarsus, Antakya and Syria.

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Sleeping in a Church

Here are some more things I’ve been doing but as they come into my mind instead of the usually structured and deliberate way I usually write them. You see I haven’t got my little book with me. I slept in a mosque. One of Richard’s plans was to sleep in a church at some point and I’m sad to say that the churches I came across were so universally defensive and unfriendly that after a while I stopped asking. The people I used to ask would say “Not possible” in a way which made it quite clear that they really meant “Please leave me alone, I don’t like you and I don’t want to help you.” Even if there’s a well-established rule that no one is allowed to sleep in the church, it’s still possible if you get permission from the right people. Well anyway, I was just putting my tent up next to a mosque when someone came along and said that if I liked I could sleep inside and they had a sort of basement which had a load of tables, tea-making facilities (and tonnes of tea and sugar) and a folding sofa-bed. Naturally I was delighted. Then the guy said “Are you hungry?” and gave me a bunch of food (and, obvo, tea).

Mosque

I went to the mosque the other day when I was waiting for Mum to show up. I really like going to the mosque. Perhaps it’s just because it’s something unusual for me but there seems to be a quite honest atmosphere of reverence and holiness. The service or whatever you call it is both public and private – public in that you’re all together and private in that the whole time everyone is whispering their own prayers to themselves at their own speed, nothing is said communally. When I came out someone who had met me at the cafe before asked me, a bit confused, if I was a Muslim. I said “a little” which I think is fair. After all, I subscribe to the Lahr’illi illah uhl’Allah bit even if I haven’t come round to the Muhammeden Resullullah section of the creed. After a bit of surprised chattering between themselves, one of them asked me what my Muslim name was. Busted. I didn’t know you got a Muslim name. I had to come clean. Still, they don’t seem to mind me joining in. If you’re near a mosque and you’d like to have a go, here’s the advice that I was given: clean your feet, hands, forearms, face and hair before you go in. You can put your socks back on after the feet cleaning. Take your shoes off at the obvious shoes-off bit. At the start everyone finds their own space on the floor so get a space where you can surreptitiously watch some other people and copy what they do. After a while everyone lines up shoulder to shoulder and then you do some more bowing and kneeling and at one point you all turn right and then you all turn left (so don’t be on the very end of the row in case you miss the cue). There are slight variations as well, like whether there’s an imam at all and whether or not you have bead-time (which is when you take some statistic beads off the wall and work your way through them at high speed, presumably counting things). It doesn’t last long and it’s definitely worth it.

Baths

I met Mum in a place called Hammamkirahisar or something. The Hammam bit at the beginning means “Turkish Bath” which they had one of and which I went to. Pretty cool, it’s kind of a cave with a domed roof where a bunch of young men wearing pants lark around like children. I was trying to do my laundry by the side but it was made quite hard by a quite large Turk who kept challenging me to a wrestle. Bath wrestling involves putting the other guy’s head under the water to win. There was also a massive powerful spout of bath-warm water coming in from somewhere which you could amusingly kick / push someone in front of / spray at people / try to stand in front of without being knocked over. Also included was a long mobile-phone photo shoot.

Turks Again

The Turks are (among other previously mentioned good qualities) surprisingly playful. Did you know that? In my mind a Turk was a short furious man in a turban and a beard who shouts and spits and cuts people’s heads off with a curvy sword. They’re not like that at all. I often see pensioner-aged men grabbing some item of clothing of a passing friend to annoy them or doing some other idiotic and light-hearted thing. I saw one fifty year old pick up a seventy year old in his arms and run over to a pond to pretend to drop him in it. That sort of thing lifts the spirit in the same way that seeing a young child being gracious or hospitable does.

Inappropriate Gift

I have a vague feeling that I was not particularly flattering about the kilo of flour I was given. Yes, I had to carry an extra kilo for about 9 days but in the end I managed to turn it into pancakes which, after all this time, are still probably my favourite food if they haven’t just been overtaken by curry. And to put it in perspective I was given about 2 kilos of soap the other day. I stopped at a container ship dock where the manager welcomed me in and introduced me to his sub-managers before their managers’ meeting. They were all quite pleased to have me in the office and as a token of their esteem they gave me what I suppose is the standard gift pack. It contained toothpaste (I was about to run out); a sort of cologne that they splash around all over the place round here and which has been quite useful for neutralising my feet without water; a mystery cream; a tube of shaving cream – no irony intended, I don’t think, nor did it seem to be an unsubtle hint; a bottle of what I at first thought was shampoo but which, after I’d squeezed it on my shirt to wash it, turned out to be “body yoghurt”; two different bars of soap which both “contained milk” and two packs of four bars of soap. Ten soaps! And a whole host of hygiene products with dairy ingredients. Why? What could possibly be good about putting milk on yourself? Milk is the starting point of one of the foulest smells in the world. Well it all worked out quite well because I gave them all away quite quickly and even got some cherries in return for some of them.

Mum

Mum came to see me the other day. It worked out excellently. The Turks performed in textbook manner by springing tea on us all the time and feeding us despite Mum having a walletful of Euros. The route hadn’t quite reached the massive flat boring plain that I think I’m about to cross and there were still some villages and such to break up the walking. She successfully hitch-hiked home by using the often-frowned-on hitching technique of paying someone to drive her to a bus station although to be fair to her, we had spent 8 hours walking along a road and been passed by exactly three cars. Hopefully she’ll provide an extensive account for those hungry for further details.

Sample Day

I can’t write anything about most of the times people give me food or are nice to me in some way. There are way too many. To give you a flavour, this is what happened today. I woke up in a building site (they’re building an intercity rail line from Ankara to Konya), had breakfast with the builders (fried egg, bread, olives, tomatoes, two cups of tea – pretty standard). As I approached a village a guy on a motorbike stopped to say that he’d give me a lift to the cafe where he’d buy me a tea. I walked to the cafe and he bought me a tea. Two teas, actually. I had lunch by myself – bread given to me by the builders, boiled egg given to me the day before by some other guy, chocolate spread and cheese left for me by Mum. On to the next town where two people who were guarding a factory gave me a cup of Nescafe (already poured out, presumably for one of the two) but they couldn’t help me with the internet. In town (Sülüklü, marked on my small map of Turkey as being one of the notable towns of the area – population 3000) I asked for a place where I could use the internet for free and now I’m in an internet cafe, not paying and the guy who is in charge has given me a cup of tea and then asked if I want to stay at his house tonight. I have said yes.

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A friendly bunch of drinkers and the meal they bought me. People in Turkey dont drink very much in general.

A friendly bunch of drinkers and the meal they bought me. People in Turkey don't drink very much in general.

Some of the gang of brush sellers who gave me breakfast. Cardboard boxes on the floor, big teapot and loads of bread. The one making the hand gesture is called Qarizmaa, pronounced Charisma.

Some of the gang of brush sellers who gave me breakfast. Cardboard boxes on the floor, big teapot and loads of bread. The one making the hand gesture is called Qarizmaa, pronounced Charisma.

This is Nizam, who owns many factories. On the table is the meal of biscuits, teacakes and bottled water that he had prepared for me when I arrived at his petrol station.

This is Nizam, who owns many factories. On the table is the meal of biscuits, teacakes and bottled water that he had prepared for me when I arrived at his petrol station.

Me answering questions in an English lesson. The children from this school later threw their pennies together to give me 6 Lira.

Me answering questions in an English lesson. The children from this school later threw their pennies together to give me 6 Lira.

...Which I spent on pancake mixture in Istanbul.

...Which I spent on pancake mixture in Istanbul.

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Sleeping Rough

My general plan for sleeping is to start looking for a good camping spot towards the end of the day so that as it gets dark I’m all set up. One problem with this plan is that sometimes I say to someone something like “Hey, can you help me?” and they say Yes Yes and give me some tea and I hang around hopefully but then a bit later something changes and it turns out that they can’t help me any more. Then it’s dark and I’m on my own again and that’s not always perfect. When I was approaching Istanbul and so sort of in the middle of a massive stretch of urban spread that happened. I walked on for a bit until I found a bit of nicely mown grass which was in the middle of a massive intersection. There was a tree which provided a bit of shade from the surrounding street lights and I reckoned that the cars (which were visible in all directions) couldn’t see me if I didn’t put my tent up. I wasn’t worried about not putting my tent up because I met these two Polish hitchers on the border who didn’t even have a tent with them, just roll mats, so I knew that tentless sleeping was a legit option. There’s a fine line between camping and sleeping rough, and I think if you don’t put your tent up you cross that line but I’m not a snob so I plopped down my sleeping bag, shifted my neckerchief over my eyes and went to sleep. Not very much later two people who weren’t dressed as policemen woke me up by being next to me. It seemed that although I was quite well hidden from the passing cars, I was quite obvious to passing humans. They asked me some questions which I artfully managed to say “Anlamiorum” to, which means “I don’t understand”, and then one of them got out his wallet and flapped it around and said “Police. Passaport.” I was just on the point of getting my passport out (from inside my sleeping bag – oh how cautious I was) when it occurred to me that he might be doing that thing you see people do in films where they just pretend to be police and in fact aren’t. And blow me, he was. I asked him for his ID again and he waved it more frantically than the first time. On the third ask he shook my hand and walked off. So I decided that I shouldn’t sleep there, packed up my stuff and walked on.
Devotees of this blog will know that a while ago Rory said that I should try sleeping in a graveyard and although I think he’s a bit weird it certainly occurred to me that tonight would be a good night for it. And blow me, I then walked past a massive graveyard. Due to it being in a big city, real estate was sparse and the graves were absolutely crammed together with no space to walk between them and as a result I ended up sleeping on a grave. It was a surprisingly comfortable night – totally dark, no passing strangers, a double bed with non-spikey and quite squidgy greenery. And, most importantly, I wasn’t woken up by a grieving widow in the morning. Still, I prefer the tent.

Istanbul

I had organised a place to stay in Istanbul with a couchsurfing guy and I had a kilo of flour in my bag and 6 lira in my pocket. All I needed now was to meet up with Lucas. You remember Lucas, he was biking to Tanzania and I met him in Austria. Well he took the long route and I took the short route and it looked like we were going to get to Istanbul at the same time, but I’d failed to meet him the day before and now we didn’t have a plan. Lucas just said, slightly hopefully, “If we don’t meet, I see you in Istanbul I think.” And indeed I did see him, while I was walking along some little street in the city centre, heading towards Couchsurfing Omer’s house. He said something like “Ah, there you are.” And then when I called Omer to say that there was two of me and one of me had a bike and a single dreadlock he said “Ok, no problem”. Well I made loads of pancakes, did a bunch of computering and no sightseeing. Rested, ate, climbed a building, had about five Couchsurfing strangers write to me to say I could come and stay with them if I liked, met someone who lived on the Asian side who said I could stay with her, hitch-hiked across the bridge (can you believe that you’re not allowed to walk across even though there’s a pedestrian section of the bridge? Apparently it’s because people killed themselves by jumping off too much which is a totally ridiculous reason. If you’re planning on killing yourself please do it by jumping off a motorway bridge in front of a load of traffic and wear a shirt saying “Open the Pedestrian Road Across the Bosphorus”. Maybe then they’ll see sense.), made it to Margarita’s house, kept going the next day and several days of city later, and I was out.

Tea

There’s a right way and a wrong way to drink tea in Turkey. The right way is to have two teapots, the bottom one with hot water and the top one with superstrong tea in it, and they sit on top of each other. You also have a little vase-shaped glass with no handle to drink it from and normally you have two lumps of sugar with it but sometimes you get to choose how much. Huge amounts of sugar are not frowned on. The wrong way is to not have any. Occasionally I have tea with a tea bag or from a glass which isn’t the right shape but it’s rare. The full two-pot apparatus can be found in pretty unlikely places. Yesterday I met a couple who claimed that they had broken down and needed 200 lira which they didn’t have and had been waiting for two days. They had, in their car, the double teapot, gas cooker, quantities of tea, a box of sugar cube and at least two glasses. I’ve been given tea by cherry-sellers by the side of the road, by countless security guards of factories and such in their little security boxes, road construction crews, cafe owners, cafe customers, all kinds of shop owners and petrol stations. Some petrol stations have urns with two taps (water and tea) where you can have free tea because, presumably, to deny the thirsty motorist their tea is something close to a human rights infraction. On the days when I’ve counted I’ve had: 14ish (lost count), 12ish (lost count), 7 (very hot day and this doesn’t include the coke which the homeless guy bought me), and yesterday, 15. One day I’m planning to have a day when I accept every time someone offers me some tea but that will be a hard day I think.

Church

Church in Turkey is called Mosque and it’s slightly different. I went for the first time yesterday having been too intimidated before. I thought I’d probably stick out a bit and do all the wrong things so I checked with someone who spoke English and found out the protocol. Thing one which is very important is not to be a girl. If I’d made that mistake I would have been very obviously out of place. The next thing is to wash loads of parts of your body which you don’t normally wash, such as your feet and your forearms, before you go in. Since you put your socks back on after the foot wash it doesn’t stop you smelling gross but possibly has some other health benefits. Then you take your shoes off when you go in, pick a spot and surreptitiously copy the person next to you. It’s pretty straightforward – you listen to the guy reading the Qu’ran for a while, then you all line up in lines and he carries on reading. Then everyone does a series of bows and kneels and then it’s over. I don’t think it lasted longer than 15 minutes. There’s something quite nice about it being all men – I didn’t get the impression that anyone was there just to meet girls for example.

Turks

I was given some statistic beads a while ago. There are 33 of them on a bracelet and if you want to make statistics about cars which go past you, for instance, you can count 100 of them with three rounds of the bracelet (and you have to remember to add one more). I mention this because I said before that about 1% of cars which went past me beeped and waved and I know that as soon as you heard that you thought “I wonder what the sample size was”. I’m in the hills now with less cars around and more friendliness, making this the friendliest place I’ve ever been to by a stretch. Yesterday, in a sample of 33 cars, 6 beeped or flashed their lights to say hello and one stopped to give me a lift. The people I meet often take a photo of me with them. They take me by the arm if they’re walking somewhere with me and they tell me that my eyes are beautiful. That is what we would have called Legendary Service when I was at Starbucks. However I have only really come across men. The women are there, going about their business, but they don’t generally offer me tea or wave at me as they drive past or, often, smile at me when I smile at them. Women just don’t really feature in street life I think.

Bogs

Ages ago I remember Reg saying to me – if you accidentally get poo on your hand, you wouldn’t just wipe it off with a bit of paper, you’d wash it with water. His point was (and he’s half Turkish) that there is more logic behind the Turkish system of post-poo clean-up than behind the English system. I thought about that for a long time and I couldn’t see why he was wrong. Then I met Lucas who said “And you clean your ass with water, yes?” He’d been to India. It turns out that anyone who knows anything prefers the Middle Eastern way. When I got to Turkey I was confronted with the traditional hole-in-the-floor style bog, but instead of pink sandpapery loo roll, there was just a teapot of water. Avoiding as much detail as possible, the answer to Reg’s 15-year-old riddle of why we wipe and don’t wash is that you get your fingers covered in poo which is gross.

Mum

Mum is coming out to walk with me in about a week. She’s something in the region of 69 now. I’m sure you’ll be anxious to find out if she’s capable of walking further than Abi.

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