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Published: June 26th 2014
KJ and Canakkale Tolga
Tolga is a Professor of marine biology; Specializing in fish farming. Great guy and a wonderful person to show us the ropes in Canakkale.
The balconies on our small street all face one another. We are like Puffins perched in cliff side aeries keeping watch over our roosts. In the mornings, a woman across the street and her ancient, headscarf-wrapped mother tend to the potted plants on their nest's edge. When they finish; They sit down in time-worn chairs, knobby elbows resting on skirted knees as they lean over to scan the lanes below for potential troublemakers and amusing behavior. They are among our biggest fans.
When Karen and I start planning these trips it usually begins in our home office when we find ourselves underwhelmed by the repetitious tasks required in running our Florida home. The morning routine, the afternoon drudgery, the mind-numbing news cycles. So we'll pull out a map (we have drawers stuffed with maps; Topos and road and political and historical) and together we'll point to some nondescript spot on the Earth's surface and we'll say, "I wonder what it's like THERE or THERE?" and we tap the places with our fingertips, pressing the seeds into the furrows of our brains where one or the other will take purchase. As time progressed our fingers wandered further afield until we found
KJ In The New Pad
Picture taken 5-minutes after we secured the keys.
ourselves saying, "I wonder what it's like WAY OUT THERE?" And way out there is where we now find ourselves more often than not.
During our early-morning walks we pass by a placid, shallow cove churned by a pod of big, smooth, battleship-grey dolphins leap-frogging over each other to breakfast on fast-moving shoals of Jack Mackerel. When I see them I recall the 'big-surf' dolphins of Zenith Beach in Port Stephens and those ethereal Australian days when our son Noah and Karen and myself were all 'out there' together.
Our flat is on the southern outskirts of Canakkale in an area called 'Kepez/ Merkez' near the end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. There is a bus line running from our front door, north to the ferry terminal and town center. It costs us eighty-cents apiece for the ride. We are on the second floor of a building that sits above bakeries, restaurants, pharmacies, and ice cream parlors. Our balcony faces northeast and if we stand in the right spot and peek over the neighboring buildings we can glimpse the blue harbor. The apartment is approximately 900 square feet in size which feels palatial compared to our customary road quarters.
A large light-filled bedroom with double bed. A living room made sunny by wrap around windows and a glass door to the balcony. A galley kitchen with refrigerator, stove, toaster but surprisingly no oven. We have yet to see an oven in any of the Turkish homes we have visited. The bathroom has a shower and a small washing machine and we love that little suds-belcher to death. One quickly grows tired of searching out reasonably priced laundry services on the road or washing Levis in hotel bathtubs. We have done both and we have done both often. Hot water is provided by a small, Insta-Hot, natural gas heater that sits on our kitchen wall. Energy prices are high in Turkey. A gallon of gasoline runs about ten dollars. Diesel fuel is a bit cheaper. As a result; Most cars and buses in Turkey are diesel-engined. Electricity is used primarily for lighting. Everything else here runs on natural gas.
The day we moved in, the weekly farmers' market across the street was in full swing. So much quality food for so little money. We stocked up on vine-ripened tomatoes for thirty-cents a pound. Huge heads of fresh, green, leaf-lettuce
at fifty-cents each. Bushels of cukes. Slabs of 'Get Ready To Crumble!' goat's cheese for pennies. Mountains of fat white potatoes. Honey sold in the comb or in the jar. Home-made tomato sauces. Every kind of nut you can imagine except the coconut. Pickled vegetables, hard cheeses, herbs, onions and so many different fruits. Cherries, Strawberries and Apricots are in season here so we load up on these daily. For those we pay $1 per pound. Milk-pail sized containers of fresh yogurt; Cow, sheep and goat varieties ranging in color from wintry-white to almond-amber. Glistening platters of black, green and beige olives. Enormous, thick-crusted loaves of coarse, wood-oven baked bread set us back ninety cents. Karen toasts fat slices of this bread smeared in local, home-pressed olive oil and topped with fresh, chopped-tomatoes perfumed with herbs. We eat them along with a big tossed salad and wedges of hard cheese and it is all good. KJ makes it all happen deliciously.
There is a bakery on every block. Their windows filled with loaves of every size and dimension Doner restaurants offer huge portions of chicken, lamb and beef skewered and charcoal grilled or ground into patties called 'Kofte', plated
At 7 AM the dolphins arrive to feed here.
with sides of fresh salad, pickles, roasted peppers and fries or in wraps containing all of the above for $4 per family-sized serving. It's old-time shopping here. No super-centers. If you need hardware you go to a hardware store. The same goes for dry goods and household items and produce and wines. Turkey is the third largest producer of grapes in the world and the sunny slopes along the western coast have spawned great wine varieties like Corvus, Talay, Ataol and Yunatcilar. As inexpensive as $4 a bottle.
The local merchants seem happy to have us. On the first day we were merely an oddity but now that it appears we are in Merkez for the long haul the locals smile as we pass and business people will linger in their shop doorways when they see us. We carry a dictionary but even then we find ourselves miming specific requests like opening an imaginary bottle of wine to secure a corkscrew or mixing together two invisible components and saying the Turkish word for 'glue' to get some epoxy. A pine-shaded cafe across our street is permanently populated with verbose, grey-mustached men sitting at scuffed, wooden tables sipping dark tea
from small glasses. A playground equipped with everything from swings to a trampoline provides kids with an evening romp while their parents lounge on nearby benches enjoying Aegean-scented breezes.
Families here are tight. Children are expected to help their parents economically and emotionally throughout their lives. The aged live at home with their children until death. Our apartment building is near a medical center. Every day we see middle-aged men taking their Moms to and from Doctor visits. On the balconies around us we observe families eating alfresco suppers with all generations represented at the tables. But things are changing. Older Turks tell us that the younger generations lack respect and young men report that it is harder to find a woman to marry in Turkey because the females will not do as they are told.(?!) Economic refugees from the Ukraine and Belorus are moving to Turkey in droves, marrying into Turkish society and accelerating the shifting of cultural sands.
The Turks we meet are proudly nationalistic. Red, crescent-moon flags flutter from balconies and hang in windows everywhere. We've learned that the Turkish word for the United States is 'USA'. They do not understand us when we say
"The United States" nor "America". They are not shy about expressing their feelings regarding the United States. They do not care for Obama nor do they like what they perceive as a lack of action on our part in Syria. KJ and I have had to constantly remind ourselves that Iraq and Syria are just a few hundred miles to the south. While the Turks may not care for American politics they have never been anything less than kind and hospitable to the two of us. They seem very capable of recognizing the differences between America's foreign policy and its people.
The Turks are a good looking bunch. Centuries of playing conqueror and conquered have swirled their gene pool admirably. Blond hair and blue eyes are more common than I would have thought. The women can be very stylish; Wearing European fashions. Canakkale has fewer Mosques per capita than Istanbul and it is not out of the ordinary to see young women dressed in shorts or light, airy summer frocks. Local shoe stores sell footwear ranging from flats to stiletto-heeled Italian contraptions in brilliant hues. They adorn themselves in western bridal gowns on their wedding days, decorate their cars
with pink-ribbon signs and cruise the streets blaring horns joyously. The scene is repeated multiple times a day here. I used to see a lot of that when I was a kid growing up in Chicago. Today; Not so much. The young, lanky, buzz-cut men are given to tight denim jeans and cotton T-shirts. They wear over-sized wrist watches sporting huge analog faces in bright, primary colors. Conservative men can be found in gray slacks, white button-down shirts and sensible black wingtips. They amble down the streets; Hands clasped at the small of their backs working a small wreath of worry-beads.
Turks love to smoke. I haven't seen this many people smoking tobacco since China. Even some of the devout Muslims smoke and it is not uncommon to see Islamic women in profile with lit 100's protruding from head-scarfed noggins. This was quite a change from our experience in India where cigarette use is forbidden by law in all public venues and the cost of a cigarette was beyond most Indians' means. You can smoke anywhere in Turkey unless it is prohibited by posted signage which it rarely is. A pack of cigarettes costs between two and three dollars
and are sold from corner kiosks.
Cell phones are ubiquitous in Turkey. Smart phones abound and the biggest service providers are Vodaphone and Turkcel. If you want to use your own phone in Turkey you will have to have it 'registered' with the Turkish government and pay a 'not-insignificant' fee. This law was put in place to preclude people from bringing phones into the country that were purchased at lower prices elsewhere. You can buy a SIM card that will work in your current phone but it will self-destruct, Mission Impossible-style, after two weeks of use. The easiest option is to simply buy a used-phone here for a small amount and use it during your stay. There are used-phone operations on every block. There are plenty of internet cafes nearby. Most of them catering to young kids playing on-line games. Unfortunately the computers are equipped with Turkish keyboards and the learning curve to use one for me was steep indeed. Having your own laptop or net-book solves this problem. Nearly all hotels, restaurants and cafes here offer free WIFI.
When we moved into the apartment we planned on trying it out for a week to see how things
KJ On The Promenade
A 4-mile circuit that makes for a wonderful morning run.
went. This was my first time living on a foreign economy since my tour in Vicenza, Italy back in the 70's. For Karen it's a first. It has been a great experience so far. Our neighbors are kind. The local dogs are tail-wagging friendly and the flat itself is beyond anything we could have hoped for. It is home. We read and write and cook, listen to music and rest here. Doing it all with sublime pleasure. Our visas run through the summer and we may just make a go of it as we cannot think of a place we'd rather be than in Turkey for the foreseeable future.
Shouts out to John Montgomery and Rick Stites and all of the 7th Evac guys as well as Noah's unit in Weisbaden. Thanks for making all of this possible. Hello to our Florida friends and our family spread out all over the States especially those odd Petros and their incredible, inedible Egg. To my Sis Patty; I've still got your money but I'm looking for a place to spend it! To our friends in Deutschland; It looks like we'll be swinging through in the Autumn though we'd like
to get to Tunisia before then. Any ideas?
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