Monday, 29 November 2004

Is this Picture for real or is it a Turkish Stereotype?

UPDATE: Century 21: 1, Joe's Ramblings: 0. The picture is real. See base of post for explanation.

In the "IK" (Insan Kaynaklari, Human Resources) section of today's Hurriyet newspaper I saw an interesting advertisement. If I'm not mistaken, the Century 21 advert promotes a franchising seminar and draws upon the global presence of this real estate company. The sentence on the bottom of the picture roughly translates as:
From America to Japan; France to Turkey, Century 21 is the world's largest name in real estate with more than 120,000 real estate consultants in 96 countries.

The picture shows a Japanese family and a Century 21 consultant in front of a Century 21 office. Is the picture real or is it a group of Turkish people made to look Japanese according to Turkish stereotypes?

I am not an expert on Japan and have never visited the country. However, I find it hard to believe the picture accurately represents a Japanese family because:
a1) The man is pulling a cart! (Japan is a very high tech country)
a2) A man pulling a cart can afford to use Century 21????
b) They have a large dog (Japan is one of the most crowded countries on earth and very few people have room for a large dog)
c) There are 3 children (Japan is very crowded and expensive smaller families are the norm)
d) How common are those forms of clothing and hairstyles?
Sure, no doubt some families in Japan do share some of the above characteristics, but I doubt many, if any, share all the characteristics.

In my opinion, it is likely the advert was shot in Turkey, because:
a) Some Turkish people do have Asian characteristics and it would take little work to make them look more 'Asian'.
b) A large proportion, probably a large majority, of Turkish people are not intimate with the different East Asian cultures. I wonder if the cart pulling idea is from China?
c) The female faces seem strained, as if they have to hold a certain look to exaggerate their 'Asian ness'.
d) The family situation in the photo suits Turkish culture perfectly (it may also suit Japanese culture).

I have yet to ask any Japanese friends whether the photo is from Japan or not and I don't know what the Japanese writing refers to. I am willing to accept the photo is from Japan if a more knowledgeable person says so.

This is not the first time I have witnessed very questionable, stereotypical media in Turkey. I am certain this kind of stereotyping and fabrication occurs in all countries as well. However, in a country with more exposure to other races, the chances of blatant and obviously stereotyped examples are lower.

See for yourself:

UPDATE [2004/12/09]: As Yutaka, the cool Japanese trainee living in Denizli, has kindly pointed out in the comments section, the picture is for real!
Check the comments for his explanation.

Century 21: 1, Joe's Ramblings: 0

The Gozne Picnic: to Snow or not to Snow?

27 November 2004

Last night Kadriye, AIESEC Adana's Local Committee President, along with Manuel and Victor, two Columbian trainees, came to Mersin on the train from Adana. They were to stay at my place before going to Gozne for a picnic in the snow. With the cold weather Mersin has experienced recently, I expected snow at Gozne although I had not heard any confirmation of its arrival.

After a few hot liqueur coffees we headed to the "Moby Dick" bar to meet my neighbour, Taner, and see his brother-in-law, Bulent, sing. Bulent sings Turkish pop and folk songs backed by a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist. He duly sang my request of Cile Bulbulum. In seats first row, stage right, sat two prostitutes. As Taner is entering the military service soon, we made some jokes concerning his 'needs'.

28 November 2004

On this beautiful, sunny morning, Kadriye, Manuel, Victor, Orhan and I left in my boss's second car for the journey to Gozne. Although Gozne is only 25 km from Mersin, the road is steep and windy in various places and the packed Renault Toros running on LPG does not race over the hills.

Against expectations, Gozne did not have snow! The only snow visible was on distance mountain ranges. We have to go back later in the winter to see snow.

The sucuk (Turkish sausage), mushroom, tomato and onion cooked with a coal-powered small Turkish "mangal" (barbecue) along with fresh bread made for super sandwiches. Absolutely super!

Although there was no snow, we did find small ice crystals on the steep climb up the nearby pine tree covered hill. By the time we came to the summit, we were all exhausted.

On the way back to Mersin we stopped 3 times:
1) To enjoy the view from Gozne Castle (1 million lira entrance fee)

2) For a cup of tea and fried, sugar syrup soaked sweets at a roadside cade/restaurant. One of the sweets contained fresh cream inside and another walnuts. Both were very delicious.

3) To buy persimmons from a roadside seller. The peak of the current persimmon season has passed, but they still taste fabulous. The persimmons sold by the man were hard so I will have to wait for the 10 kilograms I bought to soften before I eat them. I also purchased 2 kilograms of apples. Manuel has never eaten a persimmon.

In summary, although we did not experience snow, making the trip to Gozne was still worth the effort. There are preliminary plans to make another trip later in winter once the snow has definitely arrived.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Winter is here

The rain last Sunday signalled the beginning of winter in southern Turkey. The temperature upon return to Turkey was 5-10 degrees lower than before I left. Today's forecast maximum for Mersin was only 10 degrees centigrade!

My house now feels like a fridge. At least I have the gas heater to warm the place.

Tonight some trainees will visit from Adana. We plan to have a barbecue at Gozne, in the mountains above Mersin. Hopefully, Gozne will have a covering of snow. The weather is certainly cold enough to provide the white powder. The 2 Columbian trainees have never experienced a barbecue in the snow.

Saturday, 27 November 2004

Syria Revisited

Besides the wedding, other notable points from my trip to Syria were:

- Celine and Bangali's wonderful cooking. The tomato soup and African peanut chicken dish were exquisite!

- On Saturday we visited the sight of Saint Simeon just out of Aleppo where the ruined cathedral, including St. Simeon's pillar are located.

- Shopping! After visiting Saint Simeon, we went shopping in the centre of Aleppo for goodies to bring back to Turkey. I bought Cashew nuts (not found in Mersin), Arabic coffee, Syrian flat bread, Saudi dates and 6 kilos of gourmet Aleppian sweets.

- Rain poured all day Sunday. The taxi back to Antakya attempted to surf the puddles on the road several times.

- At the border I purchased 1-litre bottles of Kahlua and Tia Maria for the bargain price of 13 Euros each. I don't know why I chose 2 coffee liqueurs when I already have homemade Kahlua maturing at home. I guess I had coffee on the brain. My receipt given to me by the very friendly shop worker not only included the 2 bottles but also 3 cartons of Marlboro cigarettes. Hmmm... I wonder if tax-free cigarettes are smuggled into Turkey. Of course not...

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

An Aleppian High Society Wedding

On the weekend I travelled to Aleppo to see friends Bangali and Celine again. The journey there on Friday consisted of a bus to Antakya (10,000,000 TRL) followed by a taxi to Aleppo (USD $15 or 750 Syrian pounds or 22,500,000 TRL or 22.50 YTL). The visa at the border now costs the equivalent of USD $32 versus the $30 from last year.

That night we, along with Yuko, Bangali and Celine's Japanese neighbour, were to attend the wedding reception of their landlord's son. He was marrying the daughter of the owner of Aleppo's 2nd largest hotel, the Pullman Al Shahba. The reception was to begin at 10, yes, 10 pm!

After some difficulty finding the Aleppo Club, we eventually arrived at the venue. Through the door, past the jacket counter and up the dual twirling staircases the bride and groom’s families greeted us at the half tacky, half sophisticated function room entrance. The 'handshakes' by a few of the women were the limpest I have ever felt. Culture, I guess. I did not felt ultra comfortable, not knowing anybody whose hard earned $$$ were paying for my entertainment tonight. Still, I was very much looking forward to the experience.

The four of us were placed at a table with 3 middle-aged German couples (the landlord was first married to a now deceased German lady, so the children are half-German). This was the foreigner table, located in the corner close to the drink stand from where the waiters obtained the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Out of respect, I remained completely sober.

Approximately 150-200 formally dressed guests were seated. Most of the women did not wear headscarves and I believe it was a mixed Muslim and Christian audience. As Celine stated, the "creme de la creme" of Aleppian society were in attendance. Trade wise, I would love to be on a friendly basis with all the business people in the room.

Salads, cheese and cold meat platters covered the tablecloths. For an event beginning at 10 pm, the 5 courses lasted well into the night. A copy of the menu is below. Even though the international audience of the reception was just one table with only one native English speaker, the menu is in both Arabic and English.

Fresh dill and rind less lemon slices complemented the fish well. The lemon sorbet, I was told, pushed the previously eaten food down, creating an appetite for the following courses. I don't recall eating truffles before, not in Syria, anyway!

The dessert consisted of a flat apple pie with ice cream along, a piece of wedding cake and exotic fruits. The fruits included delicious custard apple (new to my 3 companions), pineapple, an out of season hard but edible mango, kiwi fruit and the usual banana and apple.

Music, Ceremony and Dancing
Near the start of the evening, a violinist played a few tunes to add to the atmosphere.

The music the couple arrived to was actually the same classical tune my work uses for its radio advertisements. I do not recall its name, but it is not a tune I would normally associate with either radio commercials or weddings.

Around the 3 layers of wedding cake, glorified sparklers lit up the central area and grabbed everyone’s attention.

The second live music act was a singer who sang old European standards, largely French, but also the odd English, Spanish and Italian song.

The third, main and final music group included a guitarist, percussionist, keyboardist and singer. This quartet played music very similar to the music at many Turkish weddings, a kind of Arabesque. According to Bangali (who is fluent in Arabic) the singer entertained the audience very well with his singing, quips and remarks.

Unsurprisingly, the couple were the first on the dance floor. Following them were immediate family couples and then other couples joined fray, waltzing to the European standards.

With the Arabesque, more of the guests (including myself) went on the dance floor and danced similarly to the Turkish style I had seen so many times before. I was actually surprised at how many people did dance. I expected the affair to be a bit more conservative.

At various times of the night, some guests ululated (thanks Tom) as a sign of appreciation for the wedding couple.

By 3 am the night was winding down and the four of us joined many of the other guests in exiting the building, saying good bye to the wedding couple and immediate family on the way. Waiting outside for the newly married husband and wife was a Lebanese number plated stretch limousine. I guess the vehicle was going to head to the Pullman hotel, where the husband and wife would enjoy their night together in the penthouse suite ...... THE END

I will write more about the trip to Syria and catch up with my emails soon, I promise!

Friday, 19 November 2004

Another Birthday Today

Another entity which shared my birthday today was the Back Pages Blog. 1 year ago Chris Sheil gave birth to his Ozplog (Australian political blog). For the past several months I have visited Back Pages, along with John Quiggin (and others), for my daily fix of Australian opinion and politics.

Today, Chris closed his blog with a useful blogging manifesto. I could follow some of his ideas, particularly the editing suggestion!

Tomorrow morning I'm off to Aleppo, Syria, for a short trip to see Bangali and Celine again. I'll be back in the office Monday and sometime after this I will update this website all the Syrian gossip.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

1 day too early

Today, to my surprise, a birthday cake was brought out in the office. One of the previous workers had written a list of the staff members' birthday dates. Mine was written as 17 day too early...oh, well, the 18th had already arrived in Australia and I can never complain about fresh Turkish chocolate cream cake.

Here are Ahmet, Sevil and the almost-birthday boy:

The Essence of Kahlua

The end of Ramazan holidays are over and today it was back to work. On Monday I made some coffee liqueur, a.k.a.: Kahlua. I followed 3 different Kahlua recipes and added my own touches. One of my touches was enforced: using vanilla powder instead of the vanilla essence required by all 3 recipes.

I looked for vanilla essence (or vanilla beans) everywhere but could not find it. Cetinkaya, the 4 storey department store/supermarket did not have it, neither did the mega store Carrefour, where I twice walked to after it wasn't open the first time. I eventually settled for pure vanilla powder from a spice shop in the bazaar. How much per kilo? 250 new lira or 250,000,000 present day lira. I decided 20 grams was enough and forked over the 5 million for it.

In Mersin the only vanilla ingredient for sale in almost all shops is vanilla sugar, sold in 5 gram sachets. Vanilla sugar is very commonly used for cooking.

The method I used to make Kahlua on Monday is below. All the ingredient measures are imprecise as I use taste and feel to guide my cooking, not science.

100 grams instant coffee
1-kilo brown sugar (also hard to find in Mersin)
50 grams cocoa powder
1 litre water
20 grams pure vanilla powder
700 ml vodka


1) Add the coffee, sugar, cocoa and water to a large saucepan (or in my case, a flat-bottomed wok).
2) On low heat, gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring every now and then.
3) Once cooled, add the vanilla and vodka and mix until thoroughly integrated.
4) Bottle and store, occasionally shaking, for 1 month before use.
    To Serve

a) With milk and ice
b) On the rocks
c) Pour on ice cream
d) In your favourite coffee liqueur cocktail

Some advice when making the coffee liqueur: do not taste the coffee-sugar-cocoa mix too many times. Pure coffee, sugar and cocoa lead to a caffeine and sugar 'high'. It was not a pleasant feeling!

I will write again in mid December, once the product has matured and give you my thoughts on how the homemade Kahlua worked out.

UPDATE: The Kahlua brew is not perfect but still very good, particularly added to Turkish coffee. With all the cocoa, the drink has a chocolate-coffee aroma. Next time I would probably use half as much cocoa and add the vanilla powder to the mix earlier.
If one has liquid vanilla escence it should still be added at the end.

Monday, 15 November 2004


The title of the webpage linked above is "G.O.R.A - A SPACE MOVIE" and this reflects the originality of the film.

Cem Yilmaz's (Vizyontele) latest movie, G.O.R.A., had its premiere across Turkey on Friday. That night, Orhan and I went to the Metro cinema in Pozcu to see the film. The 9 pm session was sold out so we walked into town and eventually entered the 10.20 pm session at Boyner (formerly Carsi) cinema. G.O.R.A. was heavily hyped in Turkey and Orhan spoke about how it was meant to break records.

G.O.R.A. is set in both space and another planet. The movie is in Turkish and the comedy was less visual and the faster than Vizontele so I could not understand much. I was also very tired and slept through a great deal of both halves (movies have a break in Turkey). What I did see was enough to form some conclusions.

G.O.R.A. has several product placements, including AVEA (the company formed by the merger of Aycell and Aria), a major backer of the film. I wouldn't be surprised if a cigarette company was also backing the film as the lead character pulled out a cigarette to smoke many times.

Think of Star Trek (or any 1980s sci-fi series) with a dash of Lord Of The Rings and a Turkish twist. This is G.O.R.A. The costumes, stereotypes, cliches and plot were stuff of b-grade legends. If the film had a saviour it was the Turkish twist. The carpet selling, coffee grounds fortune telling, sucuk (spicy sausage) growing on trees and other Turkish culture examples did give the film a sense of originality and would be funny for people who have visited Turkey.

Of course the film with English subtitles and a more awake Joe would have improved the film but I don't think anything was going to save G.O.R.A. completely.

It was 12.30 am before we left the cinema. The streets were largely deserted except for some bank workers finally leaving the office and random small groups of men chatting in parks or at taxi ranks. As Ramazan did not finish until the following evening (Saturday), the streets displayed no evidence of people partying or having a good time. One of the retail shops had already got into the New Turkish Lira spirit and was advertising a 70 cm television for 460 YTL, the equivalent of 460,000,000 TRL. The lack of numbers displayed (only 3) seemed startling.

Orhan and I went our separate ways, walking home to different parts of town. I walked across Republic Square. The night felt liberating. In the background the whir of a coastguard helicopter at the nearby military base could be heard. In Camlibel, I passed the flack-jacketed policeman guarding an official building. The policeman seemed tense. A little further down the road a man slept and snored on a park bench. Before long, I arrived home and that was the night.

Sunday, 14 November 2004

Instantaneous, Hot, Steaming and Pressurised: my new Shower

The hot water system I used to have in my apartment consisted of barrel on the apartment block roof with a electric element inside the barrel. There was no thermostat. To heat the water I turned on a switch in the bathroom.

In summer showering wasn't a problem, as I didn't require hot water. In winter, my shower options were severely restricted as a hot shower required 1 hour waiting for the water to heat up. For a bath, it was 3 hours of waiting. With no thermostat, if I left the heater on too long, the water would boil. As the barrel was only 2 metres higher than the shower (I live on the top floor) the water pressure was low.

All this has changed.

On Thursday Serkan and I went to the Ilhas shop and bought a new water heater for 115,000,000 TL (or 115 New Turkish Lira!) including installation and 3 years warranty. The original price was 150,000,000 TL however Serkan had seen this special deal on the Internet.

The handyman came and installed the device on Friday afternoon. The relatively small, white box fitted next to the shower and included a new rose. Now all I need to do to have a steaming hot shower is to turn the tap, adjust the heater to the second position and wait a few seconds for the hot water to appear. As the hose utilises the cold mains tap, the shower pressure is much better.

In short, the new shower is heaven!

I experienced my first piece of heaven Friday evening. After work I was due to meet Orhan and see the new Turkish movie G.O.R.A.. I will write about the movie later. Previously, in a similar situation I could have either: a) left work at an exact time to go home and turn the heater; b) had a cold shower; or, c) gone without a shower. Now, I have option a1) go home and have an instantaneous, hot, steaming and pressurised shower!

DFAT have changed their Turkey Travel Advice!

I have sorted my server and email problems so I can now get the blog posting up to date.

I had a semi-regular look at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel advice for Turkey, and, guess what?
DFAT have downgraded the travel advice. For the period from the Istanbul bombings in 2003 up until 17 October this year, they recommended Australian defer all non-essential travel. On 17 October they changer their advice and now:
Australians should defer non-essential travel to southern Turkey, especially in the border region between Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

I am very happy they have finally changed their advice but I still have a problem with it. Southern Turkey can be interpreted as an area south of a line from Izmir to Van. Do they really recommend Australians avoid all of this area or do they only mean south eastern Turkey?

Thursday, 11 November 2004

The Servers are Moving

I am about to move the servers for this blog. The movement will change the blog address from the ultra long to Much better, hey?

Previously, forwarded to the users.chariot address. Now, the blog will stay at Please adjust your bookmarks to this new address.

UPDATE [13 November 2004]: I had some trouble with the transfer but now it is all okay. should now be working fine.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Qadr Night and Ataturk's Death

A couple of important dates to the religious and secular in Turkey.

Qadr Night

Last night, the 27th of Ramadan, was "Qadr Night" (Kadir Gecesi), the night the Koran was shown to the Prophet Mohammed for the first time. For Muslims, it is a very holy night.

Although this is my fourth Ramazan in Turkey, This is the first time I recall hearing about Qadr Night. When Onur mentioned it to me I thought he said "kadin gecesi" (ladies' night). A slight difference in pronunciation can make a large difference in meaning!

Ataturk's Death

At 9.05 am on 10 November 1938, Ataturk died. Today is the 66th anniversary of his death. At the same time each year, for a few minutes, many people stand at attention, sirens sound and traffic stops (including the Bosphorous ferries).

A few minutes ago whilst in the toilet I heard a siren. I thought the sound was an emergency vehicle and it led to thoughts about a home burning or some other emergency. I was relieved to discover the siren was only ceremonial.

PS: Mix FM, the local radio station is currently playing "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. Check the lyrics. I don't think it is coincidental this song is playing on the anniversary of Ataturk's death.

The New Turkish Lira Designs are Uploaded

Visit to see the New Turkish Lira notes and coins. The new and old lira note pictures are also detailed.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Turkey's economic attraction to EU

An informative article in the International Herald Tribune explaining why Turkey's proposed EU entry will be good for European business. The article also contains a useful summary of Turkey's current economic conditions.

Winter is Hinting its Impending Arrival

The last two days have been overcast and cooler than the previous gorgeous autumn weather. People are now wearing jackets and jumpers for the first time in 6 months.

At the tennis club on Sunday, a beautiful and amazing natural event occured. 2 large (100+) formations of birds flew overhead in an easterly direction. I believe the birds were geese, but they were flying too high to be positively identified with the naked eye. The formations were not perfect V's - that would be miraculous. Listening carefully, one could hear their squawks.

The geese were likely to be escaping the cold of the northern winter for somewhere warmer in the south. I don't know if this was to be Turkey or another country. It is moments like this I wish to have a digital camera. By the end of next month I will have one...

Saturday, 6 November 2004

The Mersin Ramazan Drummers May Be Banned! :-)

From Al Jazeera:
The administration of a Turkish province has declared that a centuries-old tradition of pre-dawn drum-beating to wake Muslims up during the holy month of Ramadan is a breach of human rights and should be abandoned...

Read the rest of the article.

I would be delighted if the drumming was banned. If a ban occurs, it is likely to be implemented next year as there is only one week left of Ramazan this year. A ban for next year is still better than no ban.

This morning I wasn't woken up by the drummers - I went to bed after the drummers had finished. Last night, Necat (Ahmet's friend) and I went to my boss, Ahmet's place, for 'Chinese' noodles. Afterwards we had a great discussion until almost 3 am about Turkey, official languages, deepness of relationships, running a cafe/restaurant in Mersin, the PKK, economy and employment trends, religion, Hawaii (where Necat studied), the US, finding a job in Fort Worth (where Necat will move to) life, the universe and everything.

Friday, 5 November 2004

The St. Joseph's Class of '94 Reunion is on Tomorrow

This morning I checked my emails and there was an email from Rebecca 'Beck' Paterson. Beck is a former classmate at St. Joseph's School, Port Lincoln. The 10-year reunion for the class of '94 is on tomorrow in Port Lincoln.

Since 1994 I have hardly kept in touch with any of my former classmates. Many times I have wondered what they are doing and whereabouts are they on the road of life. I would love to attend tomorrow, but as one could guess, it is not possible on many fronts. Instead, I sent an email detailing my life since 1994, along with a few photos.

Beck did have difficulty locating me and eventually got in contact after seeing my name on the Aussie Schoolmates website. With this blog I would have thought I was one the easiest to locate.

I wish Beck the best of luck with the reunion tomorrow and I look forward to hearing all the news and gossip on the other long-lost former classmates and teachers.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Get Digital Camera = More Photos

Some people have suggested I should post both more and different photos on the blog. These are good suggestions and I hope to implement a random photo generator once I have changed the hosting and have the time to do it.

Something else that will drastically increase the number of photos on the blog is owning a digital camera. Ever since I won some lotto money ı have been planning to get a digital camera. My boss recommended he get it in Dubai, as cameras are much cheaper there. In December he is planning to pass through Dubai and buy one for me.

Once I have the camera I plan to take it almost everywhere I go. I will shoot as many photos as I want and delete them later if I don't like them. A photo I would like to take is a radio station billboard advert currently on display in Mersin. The fictional person at the centre of the ad is listening to an iPod, the antithesis of FM radio! If everyone owned an iPod, the FM radio stations would be struggling to survive with everyone listening to their own personal 'radio station'.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

Archives, New Lira, Time Change, Tennis Pain, Thanks Marga + Poppop


The archives are fixed! A simple 1 line template modification suggestion from Eric at Blogger support and wham, bam, thank you mam, the archives work properly again. Thank you Eric!

I have posted a FAQ on the New Turkish Lira at Please tell me if you have any unanswered questions about the New Turkish Lira or any article requests. I will upload pictures of the new currency, hopefully, by the weekend.

Time Change

On early Sunday morning Turkey's clocks were wound back 1 hour to signify the end of daylight saving. The implications of this include:

*Employees now stay at work instead of going home for 'Iftar', the fast-breaking meal. The soup so far has been delicious.

*The local tailor 6 floors directly below my apartment, on the street level, is now arriving at work as early as 6.30 am. It seems some people don't change their routine even with the time change.

*The sun rises and sets early. Today the sun rose at 6.07 am and will set at 4.42 pm. I'm sure Turkey's time zone is Istanbul-centric. The time zone certainly does not suit central and eastern Turkey.

Tennis Pain

On Sunday I was the 'ball-boy' for 3 other employees who were having their first ever tennis lesson. Tennis is an elite pastime in Turkey and most people have never held a tennis racquet. As a child I always had a tennis ball in my hands and on Sunday I was happy to help relay all the tennis balls back to the basket. Chasing the tennis balls must have used muscles not used in a long time. For the past 3 days my upper leg muscles have been in pain and it is only starting to recede now.

Thank you Marga and Poppop

For another letter and photos. My card to is sitting in my lounge room and I will send it soon.

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