2012 m. rugpjūčio 31 d., penktadienis

The reasons why I decided to stay in Turkey

Every evening here may easily turn into a story. When I was invited to the Ramadan supper, I thought that it will be just a way to spend time. Well, it turned out really different. Turkish friends Gulse, Dilara and their parents were sitting by the table and next to them we, four orphans – Turkish boy, man from Holland, girl from Mongolia and me, Lithuanian. Even this family is strict with traditions, though they are really open. I can’t imagine this kind of evening at my home (of course, then I’ll be back my relatives will have to face up with some changes).

It is said that a journalist must be extrovert, of course everyone needs attention and likes when others adore your work and discuss it, but I would say – you should be in a middle – extrovert to attract attention, moderate discussion, know more than others, be open, but most of the time you have to be kind of introvert – you have to learn how to listen, react to the person opinion, encourage to speak more, pay attention to every detail or sometimes just look at everything from the distance. Otherwise, you won’t find any new original topics and of course you won’t meet personas of your stories.

As I read in Pierre Flener diary, who stayed in Turkey for five years,  people have a lot of stereotypes about Turkey. Nevertheless, this diary was written in 1993 – 1998, some kind of mystical images are still alive. They had the wildest prejudices about Turkey, imagining that I roasted in desert heat on some sand dunes, that I rode on camel back to my office, that I had trouble learning Arabic and reading/writing the arabic alphabet, and that all my woman students were fully veiled, Pierre was writing in his diary.

Just imagine if it was true, would people decide to live here? When you have to face up so many cultural differences, you feel the need to create your new comfort zone, too. On the other side if you really want, you can get used to anything.

While I was collecting information about people who decided to stay in Turkey longer, I was sure that there will certain opinions I will need to hush up just to avoid causing problems for people who decided to spend a major part of their life here. So, in some parts I won‘t use some names or if it coincide with my opinion, I will bring it as my observations.

Mongolian Undram Unur lives in Turkey for 5 years. She choosed this country because it‘s cheaper than study in other countries of Europe. Also, she received a scholarship and her parents let her go.  “I choose and create my path by myself. I’m really lucky that my parents are open – father lived for five years in Switzerland and mother has a lot of friends in Canada, Germany and other countries, so she travels a lot,” says Undram.

In her opinion Turkey is a lucky country – you can find everything here. However, the first year for Undram was difficult. She was learning Turkish, but still had to use a lot of body language because she couldn’t speak fluently and didn’t have any friends, so  was spending all her evenings at home. But after hard time, comes better.

After a year she started studying Industrial Engineering in Anadolu University and made a lot of Turkish friends: “They help me every time I’m in a trouble or can’t understand what lecturer is teaching.”

It was funny when I asked her what she is missing. “Asian food,” told Undram and started rehearsed what kind of meals she likes. I stopped her and asked: “What about parents?”

We started laughing. I totally understand her. When you come to another country, you create new life, make new friends, have different problems, you are not the same person anymore.

“I really miss them,” she corrects herself. Undram adds that another thing which she really misses is comfort – using trams and busses instead of getting a lift by a car sometimes irritates.

Talking about financial side she worked for a summertime as a bar tender in London, but to work in a bar in Turkey no worth powder – you get 20 TL (8.73 EUR) for 8 eight hours, so it’s better just concentrate on studies.

Undram is studying engineering, because nowadays it’s marketable, not as marketing, law or economics which study most of the students. Moreover, 30 percent of lectures are in English, so she will be able to make an international career too. Unfortunately, lessons which should be presented in English, are taught in Turkish – students can’t understand or don’t want to listen in another language. Anyway, exams are in English.

Girl sounds really enthuastic about her life here, but what about cultural differences?  “In Mongolia you can see working women everywhere. Here, mostly men. They are everywhere – in service, Pazar, shops. Also, it was strange for her that you can’t chew loudly – it’s rude in Turkey. But the worst thing is Turkish men who think that all foreign girls are easy ones. You can understand this from the way they are staring at me or shouting from the cars.

Despite these disadvantages she carefully says: “If I met the right guy, I would be able to live in Turkey forever – I really love this country, if not I’ll go to make a career back to Mongolia.”

Arne Mulder from the Netherlands knows Turkey only for 2 years. First contact with Turkey was in 2008 when he took his Turkish colleagues’ advice and decided to study in Anadolu University. “At that time it was a big step because it was the first time when I was leaving my home for 6 months.”

As he landed in Istambul the first impression was beyond the expectations. “I realized that I’’ll be surrounded with history and religion, so it was really a special moment.”

When he got to the city he had to study named Eskisehir – opinion hasn’t changed. It looked like a modern developed town.

Not surprisingly after six months he realized that it wasn’t enough to really get to know the foreign country. After some time he got back here for the internship and got a job offer which he accepted.

I was curious whether the real reason was not the beauty of the country, but a Turkish girl? “If you go somewhere for this reason, you will end up not happy,” asserted Arne.

There are bunch of other reasons to live here. “Turkish people always help you, if they can’t speak English, they will find a person who does. There will never occur anything like once in the Netherlands. Just imagine, a girl fell off her bike and nobody gave a hand to her. People were just staring and did nothing. It would never have happened in Turkey.

Of course, we all have our flaws. For instance, Turkish people are not very strict about the time. If the meeting is arranged for 10 o’clock, they can come at 11. But maybe it’s similar for all Mediterranean countries.”

Arne noticed that the country is growing and developing quickly. There are many economical changes, new taxes (for example, more expensive alcohol), so prices became quite comparable to the Netherlands.

If the job contract will be extended, he will definitely stay in Turkey for a long time. “If not Turkey, then I prefer Switzerland,”  he laughs.

Arne adds: “From the point of view of my family, maybe the decision to live in Turkey was a little bit selfish, but for me Turkey now is like a home.

The last day Americans were staying here, me, Caroline and Qianqian, were sitting on the bench in front of Porsuk river. Suddenly, out of the blue, one guy with bike came up and started talking with us. At first he looked nice and open. Oh, just take a look, American, Chinese, Italian and Lithuanian met each other in Turkey! But in the end it turned up too strange, he was paying attention only to me and finally asked my number. I didn’t like it, but I was thinking that it’d be interesting to interview him later, so we exchanged Facebook profiles.

As I foresaw he was a little bit crazy. He started attacking me with these banal phrases as you are charming girl, can we meet at the midnight, I am exempt from my passions and etc.

Fatally, I had several issues like this in Lithuania, but in hometown you know how to protect yourself. Here, you can’t be sure if it will work, so you have to choice who trust and who not, really carefully.

So what Italian guy is doing in Turkey? (To be honest I don’t know if eveything he told is true). Wid Green is a 28 years-old man, who studied Audio–Visual Arts. “I'm a young boy christian refugee, also, orphan because my family is dead. My father is a Tunisian – amazigh tien and my mother is Italian. When I was 15 my father decided to live in Tunisia.“

However, his life in Tunisia wasn‘t succesful. “In 2011 revolution broke out in Tunisia. Four prisons were broken and islamic prisoners were behaving like terrorists and were killing all Jews and Christian Tunisians.“
So, now he has no family and decided to stay in Turkey. He lives here from 2012 of April. Firstly, he tried out himself in Istambul, but at this moment Wid works as a cooker in Eskisehir.

In his Facebook profile he declares his special connection with God and states that he is not using any drugs, alcohol and doesn‘t smoke. But now he makes some excuses for himself: “I never find a good woman for that reason – then I free from my twelve hour work, I pray and the other time I drink wine to forget my weakness“.

Anyway, he sees his future only in Turkey: river in Eskisehir reminds him Venice, Turkish people respect foreigners and cultural differences are acceptable: “I can learn Turkish language very easy because I speak 6 languages: English, French, Italianian, German, Greek and Tunisian (amazightien – old tongue of carthage/tunis). I will adapt with bizantic/otmanique culture because Tunisia was old colonique Turkey.“

Talking with Undra, Arne and Wid gave me a feeling of what life should be like. As Mustafa Kemal Ataturk once said: “Peace at home. Peace in the world.” Wherever your home is. 

2012 m. rugpjūčio 26 d., sekmadienis

Luxury of relaxing in Ephesus

Sometimes you don’t need any words. It’s not enough to say or describe. It’s better just look from the distance, take a deep breath and try to remember as much as possible.

Being in Turkey I finally realized that the only person you can rely on is you. It may hurt but that’s truth. It was really ironic situation when I and my Chinese friend Qianqian were making jokes at someone, and one friend told: “You both will die alone, if you behave likes this”. I just smiled at him and thought: “Darling, we all do, no matter what”.

Then I came here I had a lot of situations when I started to think ‘why the hell I’m here?’, but the next thought I always had was whatever happens in the end it will be OK. And I have to say it’s working. Actually I noticed a saying on the web “If it’s not OK, it’s not the end”. Well, it sounds a bit trivial, but like my photographer teacher used to say every cliché comes from the real life.

While being here I realised that I won‘t have any more luxury likes this in the next year. So I am trying to experience, to try myself out as much as possible. In these two months I finally started to feel relaxed, full of energy and after two years again being myself. But like I said I came here not only for fun like everybody thinks if you tell them that you are Erasmus student. And it‘s not a cliché anymore when it‘s real.
Such thoughts are roaming my mind time after time, but everything comes together when you least expect it.

It was a dark night, we were swimming fully clothed and lying on the boards. Some people gone to night club and several of us stayed on the beach. Tired of playing, a little bit sleepy I went for a walk by myself and everything became much clearer.

Of course Ephesus is popular not only for the magical senses and ideal beaches but for ancient history too.

Library of Celsus, the Great Theatre Had, Stone carving of the goddess Nike – there would be no information about these buildings if not the few railroad workers who found the pieces of marble/granite this city may still be underground and lost forever or at least until someone else started to dig. Today, roughly only 25% of the ancient city has been unearthed and will take an estimated 100 years to unearth the rest.
If you are religious person you should go to Bulbul Mountain to the House of the Virgin Mary. This is the place where Saint John took the Virgin Mary to live (and eventually die) after Jesus’ death. It is believed that she is buried under the house and is one of the places of pilgrimage for Christians. Virgin Mary is a common link between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

I was greatly impressed by Turkish carpets representing. It was around 11 o‘clock in the morning and they tretated us with apple tea, wine, beer and coffee. They made show by represnting a huge variety of carpets and explayning why Turkish are better than Chinese, even made some carpets fly. Turkish people really have talent when it concens interaction with tourists.
Also, they told that the best way to clean one is with Ivory soap and cold water and that the average lifespan of a Turkish carpet is three generations. Carpets are made by old ladies working in that factory by hands or in families who still know how to make it. Then it‘s factory‘s choice to buy it or not. Before making carpets some designers use graphics, some just do it from their memory.

Guess what is the price of the most expensive carpet? 43 000 dollars, hah. Actually they are becoming more and more expensive each year because there are less and less people who can make them. And small secret: if you really want something and you think that you bargained and pay less it‘s not true. Turkish people see then you really want to buy something, so they just will make price bigger at first.
Şirince Wine Village is also worth visiting. The name Sirince means "pretty" but previously the city was called Cirkince meaning "ugly" in order to keep the inhabitants from being bothered by foreigners and sharing the village's beauty. You must try out wines here. Personally, they are too sweet, but it depends on your taste. For me it is to more like juice with alcohol.

What really made me an impression was place named Pamukkale. In Turkish it means “cotton castle” which is exactly what it looks like. The whole place is covered in white, calcium carbonate deposits which harden into travertine. Hierapolis means “Holy City” and is situated just above Pamukkale for its abundant supply of water and hot springs. After long day it‘s perfect to go through this water. Of course we tried to go to the forbidden area, so after some minutes police came. Good for us they thought that we were just a bunch of stupid and distracted tourists.
There is a legend about Pamukkale:„There was a young girl who was unmarried and ugly. As no one wanted to marry her, she decided to commit suicide and she threw herself off the travertine and fell into a natural pool but did not die. Because of the water in the natural pool she turned into a very beautiful girl and caught the attraction of the lord of Denizli while he was passing by. At that moment, the lord fell in love with this young and beautiful girl and they soon got married.

So, in addition to the curing effects of the water, people also believe in the beautifying power of the water. As the water is useful, this land has been a place people would visit periodically for beauty and health since the ancient times. So the reason for Pamukkale to be an attractive place is not only the natural travertine, but also the healing waters.
The mineral water of Pamukkale helps recovering the high blood pressure, kidney stones, stroke, rheumatism, nervous and physical exhaustion, eye and skin diseases, circulatory problems, digestive maladies, nutritional disorders and chronic disorders. Pamukkale became a spa resort today and the center of a pagan cult in antiquity.“

Thanks for the reading!

2012 m. rugpjūčio 18 d., šeštadienis

Turkish bath

What I love about my stay in Turkey is that each and every day I experience something new, sometimes even daunting. As I was feeling completely exhausted I decided to try out Turkish bath (hamam). How different it is?

Take a look. Firstly, you should know that in some hamams there are special days for men and women, whereas in the others women enjoy Turkish bath during the day, while men at night.

At the entrance you have to pay 6 TL (2.70 EUR) and leave your shoes. I didn’t like it because I had to wear slippers or sandshoes which didn’t look hygienic at all.

A Turkish bath is the variant of a steam bath, sauna or Russian bath, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam. It is similar to ancient Greek bathing traditions.

Firstly, a person relaxes in a room known as the warm room which is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and trying sauna, receiving a scrub and massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation or just take a cold shower.

There are two most popular ways of taking Turkish bath. Firstly, traditional style for experiencing traditional Turkish bath which contains scrub made of kese (a rough mitt for massage) which will take care of every square inch of your body. Suddenly you realise how much dirt was on your body.

After this you will get 15 minutes massage and will feel relaxed and clean. After this or before an attendant washes you with hot water and you can try sauna which it is extremely hot. At the beginning I couldn‘t put even my foot there but after some time I got used to it and even managed to try this out. Furthermore, after scrub and massage you will get cold shower.

All these procedures cost 12 TL (5.4 EUR). But the prices in all cities are different, so at the beginning ask to be sure how much you have to pay. I tried this in Eskisehir, Hamamyolu street which is known for its numerous hamams. Also, you can try traditional hamams in a hotel if you are lucky to stay in a more luxurious and more clean, but of course more expensive hotel.

Second type of Turkish bath is based on self-service, meaning that you bathe yourself and bring your own soap, shampoo and towel (actually I offer to take all this stuff if you take traditional bath too). This is obviously the cheapest option and will cost you less, but I wouldn’t recommend this for your first visit, because where will be no wow factor.

What else you should know? Women wear underwear, but mostly no bra. Some young girls are disgusted by old women’s bodies, but I think it’s more common for not mature persons. Of course, if you do not feel comfortable, you don’t have to undress. Also, I suggest taking swimsuit instead of underwear. Do not wear any make-up. Just relax, don‘t be afraid and let yourself experience new sensations.

2012 m. rugpjūčio 17 d., penktadienis

Trekking in Capadocia

Cappadocia means ‘land of the beautiful horses’ but I would say it is a dreamy slice of central Turkey dotted with ‘fairy chimneys’. It was the volcanic eruptions that created this surreal moonscape: the lava flows formed tuff rock which wind and rain sculpted into sinuous valleys with curvy cliff faces and pointy fairy chimneys. Unfortunately, now every year they become much smaller (1 cm each year) because of erosion.

After this trip I finally decided it’s my last guided trip. I can’t take anymore of those boring stories. Before a trip I always look info historical and religious backgrounds. But in my opinion it’d more interesting to take a map and get lost instead of listening to a guide who is always looking for the right word and pushing to see as much as possible.

The most popular word in this trip was frescoes. There are a lot of them in Göreme Open Air Museum. The best for a stroll is Ihlara Valley – filled with riverside greenery, birdsong and a string of churches cut into the base of towering cliffs. Despite centuries of vandalism, many of the frescoes (or more accurately seccos, painted on dry rather than wet plaster) are still colourful, but of course paintings are not full.

What really makes you take a deep breath is underground cities. I visited Kaymakli Underground City. in Cappadocia that is seven floors deep, although, it is only allowed to go down to the fourth floor due to the risk of collapse in the lower floors. Our guide told that there were 200 of such settlements in Cappadocia and it is thought that they were used by the Christians to escape persecution from incoming civilizations. Each cave housed up to 10,000 people. The largest discovered settlements are almost ten levels deep, with narrow passages connecting the floors like hamster tunnels.

People could live underground for up to three months without seeing any sunlight. Surprisingly, they had really good communication system based on tunnels. Moreover, their main job was to make wine and cook meal. Fair enough, what else would you do when it is so dark, hm? J Plus they had no privacy as their bedrooms were without doors.

I have read one interesting fact in an article saying that the pigeon houses riddling the rock faces are now mostly vacant, whereas they traditionally used to collect the birds’ droppings used as fertiliser. But I saw many pigeon holes carved into the rocks that used to harvest the pigeon droppings. Our guide told us that it sells for $12-15 per kilo. It’s time for business.

Moreover, Capadocia is popular for local wine. I went to Turasan winery which is dates back 1943. Unfortunately, I suddenly become very nagging when it comes to the wines. The quality seemed bad and actually nobody bought it. Of course, I guess they gave us to try wine of low quality and this was not the right decision. Anyway, Cappadocia has one of the world’s oldest wine industries dating back 4000 years.

Another entertainment for the tourists is a trip on an air balloon. Well, it costs 190 euros for each person, so maybe I will come back for it after 10 years?

It is really worth visiting Pasabag Valley. The best way to cut off your expenses is to buy “Museum Kart”.

Devrent Valley is known as Imaginary Valley. Interestingly, the animals and figures you will spot depends on your imagination. Some of the most important, or the easiest seen animal shapes are camel, snake, seals, and dolphin. If you let your imagination run free you will find many others. It is like looking at clouds and seeing a dragon. There is even a rock pillar which looks like Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, there are no churches, so you can just enjoy exploring new type of nature and do a little of climbing and trekking.

Later we relaxed in Turkish night. Well, we saw a lot of Turkish dancing. The most attractive was belly dancing. Also, you can drink whatever you want all night long which makes the whole thing much more touristic and a bit boring.

Zelve Valley churches are not as impressive as those at the more famous Göreme Open Air Museum, but Zelve (ZEHL-veh) has its own attractions: the topography is even more dramatic, with crags and pinnacles and steep valleys, and there's more freedom to climb around and look at all the caves, nooks and crannies.

Ihlara Valley is 14 kilometre-long valley. The very steep sides of the valley have many churches and chapels. Also, rich fauna and flora. For a rest break generally the restaurants in Belisirma are preferred. After lunch the walk continues to the end of the valley where worth-seeing villages are located. On the return leg you can make a stop at the crater lake and, if it is a season, you can enjoy a swim there.

Furthermore, Cappadocia is famous for Çavuşin Greek Village. It was time when the Greek were forced to leave and after sometime were allowed to get back. As our guide said, ‘People can live together in peace despite their nationality; it’s always problems for politicians.’ It is his opinion; but you can never know what the truth is.

This city is also popular for special local cuisine. I tasted dinner which provided lots of different tastes. Tender meat slowly baked in tandir (traditional wood burning ovens), hot or cold soups of buglar (cracked wheat), and comlek fasulye (dried haricot beans and chopped meat braised in pots) with linger on your taste buds for a long time. In addition, Cappadocia offers yaprak sarmasi (stuffed leaves), patates salatasi (potato salad), dolma mantra (ravioli-style minced meat parcels), sulukofte (boiled meatballs in a tomato sauce), bamya (okra) and many other tastes.

To sum up walking tours are the ideal option for being together with nature, roaming around freey and enjoying the environment. The fairy chimneys that are said to change their colours according to the time of day, the footpaths that disappear in  horizon, the blossoms on the trees, the natural life, and the historic settlements all make Cappadocia an attractive destination.

2012 m. rugpjūčio 7 d., antradienis

If you aren’t Natasha, you don’t have to be afraid of Turkish men

Fortunately or not but for the three months I will be living in Turkey. One month has passed but I still remember my friends saying “Are you crazy?”, “Be aware of Turkish men”, “Please, do not bring Turkish man home”. Such thoughts accompanied me till the departure from the Vilnius airport.

This fear does not surprise me because of the widely known “adventures” that many Lithuanian girls enjoy around the world. But I have to point out that not only girls from my country stumble into traps of lovely and attentive Turkish men. Every woman who is tired from her life routine might easily fall in love with these brown eyes, black hair and supportive smile because they really know how to treat a woman.

Women start to feel special, better than the others and worthy. Bingo! This is the secret of their seduction. Actually all men should behave like this – carry on polite and gentle communication, do not spare compliments, walk you home and just be interested in what you have to say. “We never let woman go alone to the city,” said my friend X.

How many Lithuanian guys will wait for girls to dance until sunrise and without any intention walk them home? Well, if there are a few guys like this, it is still good.

Of course, sometimes foreigners start to feel so unique overrating their beauty that when they come back home it may be too cruel and hurtful to face the reality. Turkish men a while ago have found keys for all women needs and use them professionally, so if you don‘t get unpleasant impressions, you shouldn‘t cross the line or just feel them.

In the nightclubs Turkish women look at foreigners suspiciously, as at competitors. The same rule is for men too. Well, women from other countries just feel freer and some of them just came here for adventures. Several cocktails, passionate dance and out from nowhere will come guy and tell you „Could I taste your lips?“. Then, everything depends only on you. You have to answer for what reason you came here.

One of opportunities to save yourself, is to know one cultural difference. In Turkey looking into eyes doesn‘t mean sincere communication, it means that you like that person more than a friend. Of course not always, but usually it‘s true.

Well, I am not saying that situations described are common for all Turkish men without exception. But this is how men searching for one night stand or trying to get ticket to Europe behave. Sometimes it‘s even too easy. This is why I‘m not surprised any more why we hear a lot of stories about unfortunate marriages with Turkish guys and foreigners. To be honest, majority of women marriage people they met just on the street, bar, shops, so of course, there can be no future. Baby-faced brown eyes men are ready for everything.

Maybe it is one the reasons why before telling that I‘m Lithuanian I turn around and check if my friends are still here. “Lithuanian? Oh, I slept with 8 of them“, with pride is telling my friend Y. That evening I didn’t speak with him too much.

But I don‘t really blame my fellow-countrywomen. A lot of people behave like this because they know they are seeing each other for the first and the last time. Work visits, students exchange programmes or short holidays. I won‘t discuss morality question here.

Such attitude was created on the basis of Russian girls behaviour are called who in Turkey by one name „Natasha“. When USSR collapsed many Russian girls came here to work as prostitutes just for a dinner or supper. So if you are blonde you always feel evaluative look. They are checking if you are easy girl or not.

There is even a popular slogan „Natasha yat asagi!“, which means „Natasha jump into my bed!“. No wonder, why even and advertisement campaign „Natasha, go home!“ was made.

Surprisingly, Polish women have created different image. Several times I was asked whether the touch meant disrespect in Poland. I mean touching as tapping on shoulders, kissing on the cheeks and etc. Why I haven‘t heard about this before?

After some time I made a conclusion that such opinion may occur because of English language misunderstandings. On the other hand, of course it reflects on the entire Eastern European culture - people there are not so emotional and expressional as in Turkey. Here people smile a lot and use body language. Men are not afraid to get called gay for hugging each other or tapping on a shoulder.

Moreover, they always say hello touching each other cheeks and kissing it, but only with close friends. There aren’t any intimacy allusions.

All in all, despite all Turkish guys gimmicks, they know how to treat a woman and how to make her feel special. Friends from Lithuania are making jokes that for Lithuanian guys it will take a century to learn this. I hope that it will happen faster because there will be no women left.