A lesson on ANZAC Day

The 2015 Gallipoli Ballot has been drawn and 10,000 lucky Australians and New Zealanders now have their tickets in hand to attend a once in a lifetime experience – to be on Turkey’s Gelibolu Yarımadası (Gallipoli Peninsula) for ANZAC Day, April 25. The event will mark the centenary of the ill-fated Allied landings at Gallipoli during the First World War (WW1).

This means Istanbul is about to experience a ground-swell of “Aussies” and “Kiwis” during the latter weeks of April. In previous years, we would predict the coming of ANZAC Day by the sudden presence of casual board shorts in cold conditions, thongs flip-flops, freckled skin and profanity pounding the pavements of Sultanahmet.

Tank tops, tattoos, flags and a barbie (BBQ) - Australians in full patriotic bloom!

Photo: Tank tops, tattoos, Aussie flags and a barbie (BBQ) full of sangas (sausages) – Australians in full patriotic bloom!

But this year, we’re expecting a more refined crowd. More dignitaries and less backpackers. More veterans and less beer guzzling world travellers under the age of 25 – due to the ballot’s attempt to manage crowd numbers.

Whilst those attending are more likely to blend in, media attention and heightened security measures will follow as dignitaries and celebrities alike gather for a front row seat at the commemorations.

Prince Charles and (swoonworthy) Prince Harry will be in town. So too will Russel Crowe, who returns to Turkey after doing a sterling job on entwining Australian and Turkish WW1 stories born of the Gallipoli Campaign in, The Water Diviner, known in Turkey as Son Umut (2014).

Prince Harry is hot

Photo: Will having a sign like this earn me a hand in marriage high-five from Prince Harry?

If you’re not an Australian or a New Zealander, then ANZAC Day may be a foreign concept to you. ANZAC Day is like your Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day – our day “down under” to patriotically honour the men and women who served, fought and died for our countries in the military missions throughout history.

So important is this day, that it’s a declared a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand. In most cities and towns, governments will host memorial services and marches to honour the significance of the day in defining our national identities.

ANZAC Day itself commemorates the crucial events on Turkish soil when the (then) young countries of Australia and New Zealand first engaged in battle on an international front. This occurred in the early hours of April 25, 1915, when a long-awaited ground invasion of Allied forces stormed the Western shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to conquer the Dardanelles – the strategic geographic gateway linking the Aegean and Marmara seas.

Gallipoli

Photo: Location of the Dardanelles and the landing area for ANZAC troops labelled with  “ANZAC Cove”.

Approximately 4,000 ANZAC troops of the 3rd Brigade were first ashore near Ari Burnu as the Allied “covering force” around 4am. By nightfall over 20,000 ANZAC, British and French soldiers were ashore in armed combat on the Gallipoli Peninsula* against the army of the Ottoman Empire, that included one Colonel Mustafa Kemal.

The British Empire, leading the ANZAC troops, believed defeating the Ottomans over the Dardanelles would provide passage to the capital of the Ottoman Empire – Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). First take the land-based forts and batteries lining the Dardanelles, then sail the Royal Navy down the strait to the capital. The strategy, envisioned through rose-coloured glasses, assumed a multi-pronged victory; Capture of the supply routes to Russia via the Bosphorus and Black Sea, and create a new frontier from the east to support existing battles on the Western Front in Europe.

The landings on April 25 were a follow-up to the unsuccessful Anglo-French naval charge to Constantinople at the head of the Dardanelles on March 18, 1915. Victory by the Ottoman Army that day is now celebrated annually in Turkey as Çanakkale Victory Day or Martyr’s Day.

The Gallipoli landings and subsequent nine-month campaign evoked a series of well-documented heroic stories, but, the Gallipoli Campaign in truth was a military failure for the Allies. Many mishaps were brought on by poor planning or execution and an underestimation of the full strength of the Ottoman forces.

The major error pertinent to the ANZAC’s campaign involved their landing boats on the morning of April 25. The pinnaces towing the “covering force” ashore drifted further north than their intended targets at Gaba Tepe and the 4,000 ANZACS troops landed at the foot of soaring sandstone terrain adjacent to the areas now known as Ari Burnu, ANZAC Cove and North Beach. The landscape alone was not the issue, the majority of the covering force troops were greeted by snipers and heavy machine gun fire – many did not survive.

Gallipoli Peninsula

Photo: The terrain that greeted the ANZAC troops.

What followed was utter confusion, dispersed battalions and an abandonment of original plans to take Mal Tepe on the high ground by the end of day one (April 25). Over the following months, soldiers fought largely on foot over the cliffs, ridges and plateaus of the peninsula. Many hours were spent digging trenches to protect soldiers and enable supply routes through the treacherous terrain. The amount of tunnelling and digging that took place earned the ANZAC troops the nickname, “the diggers,” which is a name you’ll hear today to describe Australian armed forces.

Lady luck rarely struck the Allies on the peninsula for the remainder of the campaign.* By November 1915, with deteriorating weather conditions and an increase in Ottoman strength, the British Empire finally succumbed to the enormity of the target and ordered a mass evacuation involving over 140,000 troops, horses and artillery. The majority of troops were evacuated over four nights in December with the last of the British and French soldiers leaving the peninsula on January 9, 1916.  The evacuation to the Aegean Sea was met with little resistance and causalities were minimal – a rare military success in the whole campaign.

Leaving in its wake, an estimated 392,856 causalities of Allied and Ottomans soldiers (130,842 deaths and 262,014 wounded). Almost half of these were Ottoman casualties.  As for Australia, of the 50,000 men who made it to Gallipoli, over half of them were casualties of war (8,709 deaths and 19,441 wounded). New Zealanders, with a smaller contingent of around 14,000 men also suffered a high causality rate with 2,779 killed and 5,212 wounded (almost 8,000 casualties).

Also in the wake of the campaign were thousands of Gallipoli legacies. Stories of Australian and Turkish heroes and of “mateship” that formed across enemy trenches – just metres apart. Stories of bravery and tragedy etched in diaries and letters of those who were there. Photos preserved from the past that tell their own story. Legendary stories of ceasefire days (to bury the dead and collect the injured) where the “Johnnys and Mehmets” (ANZACs and Ottomans) exchanged cigarettes, chocolate and played football (or cricket – depending on which side of the story is told). These words and these legacies, along with the acknowledgement that the Gallipoli Campaign was a bloody battle that should have been avoided, is what binds Australia, New Zealand and Turkey today.

My Australian uncle recently asked me, “Why don’t the Turks dislike Australians? We invaded their lands and killed their people.”  The words of Gallipoli’s Colonel Mustafa Kemal who went onto become Atatürk – the father of modern day Turkey and first President of the Republic of Turkey – came to my mind.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

The ANZACS are Turkish sons too are words of great forgiveness. And, when respected leaders show great forgiveness, their people will follow and friendships are formed.

One of the benefits of living in Turkey as an Australian is hearing the Ottoman side of the war and forming a greater view of what the war meant for all our countries. What most Australians don’t realise is that all three countries began to form their modern-day identities – their national identities – in those eight months at Gallipoli in 1915. It wasn’t just a defining event for Aussies and Kiwis – it was also for the country we now openly visit and love (and call home) called, Türkiye (Turkey).

The thousands of Aussies and Kiwis due to land in Turkey this month will carry their own stories with them. Some may even hold the possessions or replicas of those who fought or served at Gallipoli. I will be joining them and my Turkish friends, some of them descendants of the campaign, are keen to meet them. I will be at Canakkale proudly baring the replica medals of my great granduncle, George Albert Fearn, who was part of the covering force with Western Australian 11th Battalion, B Company.

George came ashore in the second wave of landings – the wave that came under the heaviest fire once the Ottomans were alerted to the ANZAC arrivals. Many of the men he landed with did not make it to the beach, yet he survived the entire campaign, and for this I am extremely proud to represent him and my family near Gallipoli among my friends – the modern day Johnnys and Mehmets – who will be with me as the sun rises behind the peninsula signifying 100 years since our ANZAC “fathers” first touched Turkish soil.

Lest we forget.

* For more information about the whole campaign, including the role of the British, French and other Allies visit the excellent websites: www.gallipoli.gov.au; www.abc.net.auwww.awm.gov.auhttp://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au; and www.anzacwebsites.com.

Come back tomorrow to read, 16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary– a post for Aussies and Kiwis coming to Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary.

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74 Lessons from 5 years in Turkey

one-does-not-yc1utmI hit my five year anniversary of living in Turkey this week and so, in my moment of reflection, I brainstormed all the memories and things I learned since arriving. I normally write about my lessons from Turkey, but really – they mount up – I can’t keep up! These lessons are obviously skewed to my gender and neighborhood, so feel free to add yours in the comments section below.

  1. Having an excellent Turkish vocabulary does not mean your Turkish is fluent.
  2. Attempting to speak a new sentence with your çok az (very little) Turkish will fail 99.9% of the time.
  3. Six months will be spent waiting to apply and receive your ikamet (resident card).
  4. Several hours will be spent learning to pronounce: Yabancılar Şube Müdürlüğü (the place where you get your resident card).
  5. Getting your ikamet can be a convoluted process, but still somewhat easier and far cheaper than most other countries.
  6. Most mornings will involve checking your Facebook and Twitter accounts by switching on your VPN.
  7. You know what a VPN is. You didn’t before moving to Turkey.
  8. Your friends and family back home are also learning what a VPN is and are considering getting one too.
  9. Fleecy pazar (street market) pants for 10TL are the best pants you’ll ever wear while you work (from home).
  10. Allowing the greengrocer to pick your fruit and vegetables means getting the goods with the mold.
  11. Once the greengrocer knows you’re “local” this will stop.
  12. You can’t find self-raising flour in the shops (but you can find the recipe online to make it yourself) .
  13. You can find coriander in the local street markets for 2TL.
  14. The location of sweet potatoes is still a mystery.
  15. Everything else you seek is generally found at Eminönü – between the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
  16. An environmentally friendly canvas bag at a check-out in a supermarket will earn you awkward looks.
  17. Bruce Lee reflexes and speed are required to pack a shopping bag at the supermarket before the next customer starts packing theirs.
  18. It is possible to pick the nationality of someone just by looking at them.
  19. When there are no prices on items the seller will judge your income by the way you look and price accordingly.
  20. There is such a thing as yabancı (foreign) tax – it’s when you’re charged more for being obviously foreign.
  21. Yabancı tax is high on apartments on Craigslist.
  22. New foreigners to town will still pay it unaware of the prices on sahibinden.com
  23. Hairdressers in expat-dense neighborhoods may also be guilty of yabancı tax.
  24. Hairdressers will almost always be male.
  25. It’s possible for two men to work on your hair, with one woman doing your pedicure and another woman doing your manicure – all at the same time.
  26. Pushing and shoving people to get off a tram/train when people are trying to get on is perfectly acceptable behaviour.
  27. It’s possible that Istanbul bus drivers are in fact retired F1 drivers in disguise.
  28. It’s possible to drive a dolmuş (shared taxi) whilst on the phone, collecting money and smoking cigarette (simultaneously).
  29. Dolmuş literally means “stuffed”.
  30. Figuratively speaking a dolumuş is also “stuffed”.
  31. A taxi from Taksim to Sultanahmet is about 15TL max…never 20TL.
  32. Transport across two continents is as little as 1.65TL (60 US cents).
  33. Wearing headphones whilst walking near the tram line on Istiklal Street is not a good idea.
  34. Zebra crossings are for cars to speed up – not to slow down and stop.
  35. The Metrobus is possibly the densest “person per square meter” space you’ll ever experience in your life.
  36. Unless you find yourself at Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee shop in Eminönü on Saturday afternoon.
  37. The Sirkeci Marmaray line is possibly the deepest Metro station you’ll ever visit.
  38. The Metro lines should not be taken when tear gas is flying around upstairs.
  39. Tear gas certainly does tickle.
  40. The answer to, “But don’t you feel unsafe living in Turkey?” is still, “No.”
  41. The probability of being attacked by a drunk or a person on drugs in the West (or shot at in the USA) seems far greater than being attacked in Istanbul…in my opinion.
  42. Reporting a crime at a Turkish police station can earn you a police report.
  43. … and a friend request on Facebook the next day from the officer who took your report.
  44. You can sign up to online dating websites with no photo and no description and still get 100 likes overnight.
  45. Most of them will be married.
  46. Men will stare if you’re a blonde, brunette, or redhead – covered skin or uncovered.
  47. Ignore it – that’s generational stuff you’re never going to solve in your time here.
  48. Being a blonde in Aksaray is a beacon for Russian speaking sellers and businessmen wanting to “take you out for tea”.
  49. Nine out of 10 relationships that started in Sultanahmet will not work out.
  50. “Tsk” doesn’t mean you offended a friend, it can simply mean, “No.”…I think.
  51. “Allah Allah,” can be used to express anything from, “You annoy me,” to, “You’re hilarious, yani.”
  52. Yani does not mean, “my friend.” Nor is it a person’s name.
  53. At dinner time, it’s polite to always serve bread to Turkish friends.
  54. …even with Asian noodles.
  55. Saying, “I live in Fatih,” is met with a long and puzzling pause, followed by, “Why would you live there?”
  56. Saying, “I live in Cihangir,” is met with, “My god, that must be expensive. Why would you live there?”
  57. Someone is reading this list and asking, “But what about the Asian side?”
  58. Moving into a new empty apartment with lots of men delivering furniture and switching on services can be mistaken by conservative neighbors as, “The yabancı next door is a prostitute.”
  59. Internations expat only events are actually a great way to meet other foreigners in Istanbul.
  60. Those Internations twinkles from “Indian pilots” are still annoying.
  61. To understand the diversity of people in Turkey, you do need to ask questions about those taboo topics.
  62. Ask more than one person to get a balanced view…and ask in private situations.
  63. Explaining the fascinating facets of your life in Turkey to friends back home is almost impossible to do.
  64. But, doing so will have them booking a ticket to come experience the country themselves.
  65. There are far more people in Turkey willing to help you, rather than take advantage of you.
  66. Travelling to other parts of the world will make you miss Turkish hospitality…
  67. And the food…(ciğ köfte and kaymak – but obviously not served together!)
  68. And the hamams (Turkish bath)…
  69. And the hairdressers…
  70. And everything I listed here.
  71. It’s possible the friends and experiences you have in Turkey will become the fondest memories of your life.
  72. Istanbul is unlike any other city. She pushes you away and pulls you back in. She nurtures you and challenges you. She may in fact, with time, be your greatest love in life.
  73. Even Napoleon Bonaparte believed Istanbul should be the capital of the world.
  74. And maybe it should be!

Registering a foreign phone in Istanbul

Register phone in TurkeyChances are whenever the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy are released you’ll want to get your hands on one as soon as possible. But, when you’re living in Turkey, the cost of an unlocked handset for these state-of-the-art babies is likely to blow the budget. Chances are you’ll be buying them duty-free or asking a friend to bring one back from America where the prices are considerably less.

However you procure the phone, you’ll find the unlocked device becomes locked and unusable within days or weeks of putting a Turkish sim card in it and switching it on. Turning it on and off again, won’t solve the problem this time.

To avoid this inconvenience, you’ll need to register the mobile phone within 120 days (as of October 2015) of entering the realm of Turkish telecommunications. It will cost you approximately 165 – 205TL to do so depending on your telecom provider.

So what do you need to do to register a phone? Read on to find out..

1. Decide which telecom provider is for you

Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea are the dealers to choose from to get a pre-paid sim card for your unlocked foreign mobile phone (CEP) in Turkey. They all offer promotional packages (kampanyalar) throughout the year with calls, sms and 3G for as low as 35TL per month. Just shop around to get the best deal. Make sure you get a package with 3G – you’ll need it to GPS your way through the maze of Istanbul streets and to keep in contact with friends when you’re stuck in Istanbul traffic!

I use Avea and for 28TL a month I get 2GB of internet use, 5000 sms and 500 minutes of calls. I got it on a promotional deal three years ago and never use up the credit. Other friends have Vodafone or Turkcell and pay more per month so shop around to find the right package for you.

Know that, whilst the telecom provider websites are not in English, most stores have English speakers. So you don’t need to use their websites to add credit to your pre-paid sim card. After you buy your sim you can top-up credit at stores, or buy “top-up” (kontrol) cards at confectionery kiosks around the city, add credit via your Turkish bank account through internet banking and even (my favourite) add credit to your phone at Garanti Bank ATM/cash machines around the city without needing a TC number (Turkish citizen identification number).

2. Ask the telecom provider for the price to process the registration of your phone

When deciding your telecom provider, ask them how much they charge to process the registration of your foreign phone. In 2014, when I went through this process, Avea charged 35TL, whereas Turkcell has been reported to charge up to 70TL. You don’t pay this until after a trip to the Tax Office. This fee is in addition to the actual registration fee charged by a Tax Office.

3. Visit a Tax Office to register your phone

To register your new foreign phone you need to go to a Vergi Dairesi (Tax Offıce) with your passport and pay 135TL (price as of May 2015) over the counter. If you have an ikamet take that with you. I believe you can also visit Ziraat Bank to register your phone too.  Four things to be aware of at this stage:
1. Your date of entry to Turkey in your passport must be within the last 120 days to be able to register a cell phone bought overseas. If your arrival date is beyond 120 days you cannot register your phone and will have to wait to re-enter Turkey again to complete the registration process.
2. You can only register one foreign mobile phone every two years.
3. If you’re a tourist (i.e. you have no ikamet/resident permit) registering your phone will keep the sim/phone unlocked for six months. If you’re a resident or citizen registering gives you access indefinitely on that handset and sim.
4. The handset is registered to that sim. You can’t easily change telecom providers/sim cards after registration.

You can find the address for your nearest tax office by Googling, ‘Vergi Dairesi adres’ and your district.  Avoid visiting them at lunchtime as they close usually from noon to 1pm.

When you pay the tax office the 135TL they will also take the IMEI number of your phone. Dial *#06# to get this. The Tax Office will give you a receipt / Certificate of Registration to present to your telecom provider. Keep this somewhere safe.

4. Go back to your telecom provider

Once paid up at the Tax Office, go to a store of your telecom provider. It doesn’t need to be the same one you bought your sim card from. The store may say they can’t process the registration for you, but ask for the address of their nearest store that has the authority to do so.

When you find yourself in the authorised store, give them your receipt from the Tax Office or PPT or Ziraat Bank and your passport so they can take a copy of your last entry stamp. Finally, pay the fee they charge for processing the registration for you.

5. Use your phone

The telecom provider will process the registration and usually within a few days your Turkish sim is activated so you’ll be whatsapping and Facebooking again from your new handheld device.

Please note, there’s rumors that the system is changing. If I get any confirmed reports on this I will update the information above which leads to the final point…

6. Know the process can change!

Like any country in the world – bureaucratic systems are prone to change, but in Turkey it can mean a process that works for one person might not work for the other. So please use this information as a guide only. Anyone with a different experience is welcome to leave comments below.

JUNE 2015 UPDATE (WORTH READING):  Many people (who have resident permits) can go directly to PTT and obtain an e-devlet password (cost is 2TL). With this password you can log on to https://www.turkiye.gov.tr pay the tax fee online with a credit card and register the phone as easy as a click. Take your residence permit and passport to the PTT to do this. This also avoids any extra service fees the provider might require.

June update provided by the wonderful and knowledgeable people at oitheblog.com

A SPECIAL NOTE FOR TOURISTS:

Those travelling to Turkey as a short-term tourist need not worry about this process if they keep your foreign phone and foreign sim card on international roaming. It however becomes a problem the moment you put a Turkish sim card in a handset bought outside Turkey. My advice to tourists here on a short stay visas is soak up the free wifi everywhere and communicate for free with people back home via wifi-based apps like Skype, What’sApp, Viber, Voxer and FaceTime. Facebook also now allows you to call friends too via their app or send a voice recording to more than one person. Go to your Facebook inbox and send a voice recording to friends by selecting the friends you wish to message and press the microphone icon at the bottom of the message screen.

It’s SNOWstanbul

No words are required to describe how beautiful Istanbul is when snow kisses her softly.

Roof tops of the Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Roof tops of the Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Rooftops of Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Rooftops of Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Egyptian Obelisk and Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Hippodrome. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Egyptian Obelisk and Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Hippodrome. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Hippodrome (At Meydanı). By Love.Life.Istanbul

Hippodrome (At Meydanı). By Love.Life.Istanbul

Nuru Osmaniye Sokak, near Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul.

Nuru Osmaniye Sokak, near Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Tomb. By Love.Life.Istanbul.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Tomb. By Love.Life.Istanbul.

Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Perfecting the snowman.

Perfecting the snowman.

Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Şehzade Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Şehzade Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Fatih Park and Valens Aqueduct. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Fatih Park and Valens Aqueduct. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya in the snow. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya in the snow. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Blue Mosque. By Love.Life.Istanbul. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya and Hürrem Sultan Hamamı. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya and Hürrem Sultan Hamamı. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya and the Hürrem Sultan Hamamı. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Ayasofya and the Hürrem Sultan Hamamı. By Love.Life.Istanbul

No swimming in the pool - especially today - it's frozen over. By Love.Life.Istanbul

No swimming in the pool – especially today – it’s frozen over. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Sultanahmet Park. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Sultanahmet Park. By Love.Life.Istanbul

Hey Mister, break the Chain

One billion risingI promised myself I would not get political or too opinionated when I started Love.Life.Istanbul. I wanted to keep it light-hearted and “fluffy” because there’s plenty of blogs out there of a more serious and intellectual nature.

But when I read this article this afternoon I had the urge to honor Özgecan Aslan, and at the same time, support the many women’s advocacy groups worldwide who work to stop the harassment of women; not just domestic violence, not just physical violence – but the direct and passive harassment women can endure in private and public places.

These advocacy groups, usually run by volunteers, work tirelessly to raise awareness, change public policies and speak out on the behalf of women through events and other means. It’s why events like One Billion Rising (featured in the article) should be encouraged to occur, not discouraged by officials. These groups promote a crucial message that rallies people together for the same cause, creating a ground swell of like-minded people to take action and instigate change.

As women our safety is often on our mind either consciously or sub-consciously. We’re conditioned to be mindful of what we wear, where we go, and what to avoid to stay safe. Personally, I long for a world where we reduce the need to teach women to be safe and rather, teach our men to keep us safe.

Now I admit I do wear rose-coloured glasses, but this movement needs to start from the top and filter to the grass roots levels – flooding societies worldwide.  Let women wear what they want, let us walk the streets how we like, ride public transport without the threat of inappropriate touches and let us do what we want freely and without judgement – like dance.

One Billion Rising is an international event held every February 14, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. It’s an event with a message pertinent to societies worldwide, especially Turkey where cases of “femicide” and violence features in the news on a regular basis.

In readiness for the event, women and men around the world learn choreography by Debbie Allen via YouTube and later, on February 14, they congregate in locations in their cities to dance together to the beat and lyrics of the same song (Break the Chain, by Tena Clark).

In Turkey, multiple events are held around the country and a little Turkish flavour is added to enhance the experience. After performing the choreography, participants eagerly join hands and halay (traditional line dance). This can go on for hours and at times joined by local musicians with the zurna (mizmar) and davul (drum). It’s an absolutely empowering experience – one of my favourite moments in Istanbul where I have seen hundreds of women of all ages laughing and smiling…with supportive men by their side. It’s no wonder the event continues to grow in numbers with more men participating.

One Billion Rising, Besiktas, 2014. Photo Love.Life.Istanbul

One Billion Rising, Besiktas, 2014. Photo Love.Life.Istanbul

This year, the event coincided with the tragic news of Özgecan Aslan’s murder in Mersin, southern Turkey. Özgecan, an innocent 20-year-old-woman so heinously taken from those who love her, would have been in the hearts and minds of those participating in One Billion Rising around the country.

Without knowledge of the intention of One Billion Rising, you could agree with the President’s comments in the article. How could anyone dance at such a tragic time on that day of mourning? To that I say: Before judging, read the lyrics of Break the Chain – the song the world dances to for One Billion Rising. Surely the song speaks the words we all seek to achieve for a safer world, and surely, knowing the importance of these words, you would take our hand, dance, “rise up” and “break the chain” too setting a standard for others to follow so no family has to experience the pain that the Aslan family are experiencing today.

Lyrics to Break the Chain (listen here)

I raise my arms to the sky

On my knees I pray

I’m not afraid anymore

I will walk through that door

Walk, dance, rise

Walk, dance, rise

 

I can see a world where we all live

Safe and free from all oppression

No more rape or incest, or abuse

Women are not a possession

 

You’ve never owned me

Don’t even know me

 I’m not invisible

I’m simply wonderful

I feel my heart for the first time racing

I feel alive

 I feel so amazing

 

I dance cause I love

Dance cause I dream

Dance cause I’ve had enough

Dance to stop the screams

Dance to break the rules

Dance to stop the pain

Dance to turn it upside down

Its time to break the chain, oh yeah

Break the Chain

Dance, rise

Dance, rise

 

In the middle of this madness we will stand

I know there is a better world

Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand

Reach out to every woman & girl

 

This is my body, my body’s holy

No more excuses, no more abuses

We are mothers, we are teachers,

We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

 

I dance cause I love

Dance cause I dream

Dance cause I’ve had enough

Dance to stop the screams

Dance to break the rules

Dance to stop the pain

Dance to turn it upside down

It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah

Break the Chain

Break the Chain

 Change can start today and it starts with all of us taking responsibility to make the world safer. Act with compassion – it’s the least we can do to honour Özgecan and the millions of women in Turkey and worldwide who have experienced or who are experiencing violence and harassment in their lives.

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Özgecan Aslan.

Başınız sağ olsun

 

Break the Chain:  Produced by Eve Ensler and V-Day, directed by Tony Stroebel, written and produced by Tena Clark with music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, and featuring dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen.

Social media: #‎OzgecanAslan‬, #sendeanlat, #1billionrising, #rise4revolution, and @vday

Readings from the other inbox

Valentine’s Han SoloIt’s the evening of Valentine’s Day. The temperature outside hangs around eight degrees Celsius and I’m cooped up in the warmth of my own blanket and being at home. I’m sulking slightly with no Valentines in sight to shower with chocolates, a candle light dinner and all the romance that goes along with February 14.

It’s just your average Saturday night in – in lambswool lined pink UGG boots, an oversized woollen jumper and fleecy purple “pazar pantaloons” (pants for the local Friday market) – they offer the ultimate level of comfort thanks to their soft material and low-lying crutch.

(I know! How did I not get a date tonight!?)

Like a little kitten teasing a piece of string, I reach out to my emails and Facebook page poking around for people to play with. There’s not much happening there.  Nothing but photos of loved up couples, red roses and single women professing quotes and statements akin to “girl power”.

I, on the other hand, have a power ballad spooling in my head as I sip from my second glass of wine.

All by myself,” by Jamie O’Neal. It’s a single-dom anthem from a favourite movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary.

A sense of fear creeps over me as I reminisce about the details of the movie. Bridget’s look, her age, her living situation! Seems all quite familiar…had I become Bridget Jones?

When the movie was released I was early 20s and never imagined myself to be Hans Solo on Valentines Day beyond 2005. But here I am. Mid 30’s, blond-ish hair to my shoulders, slightly podgy, a couple of “hello mummy” knickers in my drawers and with, “Absolutely no messages. Not a single one,” not even from my mother!

The illogical urge to Google, “How old is Bridget Jones,” to compare our ages and somehow determine the success of my life is disrupted when I spot messages in my ”other inbox”. The kitten strikes as I open to read what awaits.

You see there’s a reason why I hide my identity on this blog. I like to protect my  “other inbox” on Facebook from unwanted prying eyes. Messages in the other inbox are typically from would-be-if-they-could-be keyboard Romeos of the cyber-world. Fellow bloggers report how publishing their names to posts attract these tragic star crossed “lovers”. Men who believe their cutesy messages will have foreign women swooning to their Facebook page and more. It doesn’t work, it just infuriates many. It does however, somewhat entertain me this evening – or at least give me fodder for this week’s post!

Peering into the box I note the friendly messages discretely disguised as bait to gain a reply. Ismail writes:

“Hello, do you live in Istanbul? I live in Istanbul. We should meet up.”

I consider responding with: Tebrikler (congratulations) Ismail. Look hard no feelings but I lived in the same city as Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger once…and neither of them wanted to meet me either. Take a lesson from my experience – it’s you, not me. Goodbye and good luck.

Stalker

Then there’s the overly curious Daryoush, who asks:

“What did send you to Turkey? Courage !?”

And inquisitive Yalcin who probes:

“How are u :))) can l ask u something? :)”

No, Yalcin, no you cannot ask me something..no matter how many smiley faces you purge. I fear contact with you would only end up with endless text messages and tears – your tears as I block you from my life forever.

And then there’s the voyeuristic, Ahmed:

“Oooooooo pretty, do u have any videos??”

Yes I doooooooooo, Ahmed. Lots of them. Of cats mainly. Can I send you more than one…daily?

An oddly self-proclaimed, Endoplasmic Reticulum emails:

“A writer could be so beautiful?”

That message left me feeling a little insecure. Is there a stigma that I don’t know about – that writers are unattractive creatures hit by the ugly stick? (I confess, I may have just googled, “good looking female writers,” to prove the stigma wrong …)

There’s even a doctor in the house who writes:

“Hello beautiful lady, How are you doing? I am doctor Sawyer Braschi. I will like to be your friend and come over to your country to set up a clinic. I hope to hear from you soon, Thanks.”

Doctor

Dear doctor, do you say that to all the ladies? I may be inclined to change my country if you are to follow.

But some keyboard Romeos seem to go to a lot of trouble to gain a lady’s attention. Take, for example, poet Semih who confesses:

“I have seen angels in the sky, I saw the snow fall in July. I’ve seen things you only imagine to see or do, but I still have not seen anything sweeter than you. hello. How did you … you have to be an angel.”

If I had consumed more wine by now I may have replied with some poetry of my own:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

What drugs are you taking?

Because I’ll have some too!

But I don’t reply. I never do. In fact – newsflash other inbox traffickers – I doubt anyone ever does!

Satisfied I’m not as lonely and desperate as those in my inbox, I log off from Facebook, pour my third glass wine, adjust the crutch of my pazar pants, stretch my UGG boots towards the TV and wonder when the next Bridget Jones movie will be out. I look out to the night sky and ponder this Valentines. I thank my lucky stars. Thank god I’m single and happy (girl power). Thank god I have a home and comfortable clothes…and thank god I’m not dating a man from my other inbox!!

Got some keyboard Romeos of your own? Feel free to share your other inbox below!

A very Turkish Valentines breakfast

ValentinesFoodThis post goes out to the lovers of Istanbul; the ones on the countdown to Valentine’s Day and searching for that special something to surprise their Turkish other-half.

Now, you could shower your loved one with grand gestures and expensive gifts, but, you don’t need to break the bank or go overboard to show someone you care. Keep it real, keep it simple and mix it up with this low-fuss, inexpensive gesture of love.

Kick-start your romantic day the LoveLifeIstanbul way – a shared Turkish breakfast complete with sliced juicy tomatoes, an assortment of white and yellow cheeses, olives, eggs how you like it, jams, bread (don’t forget the bread!!!) and love heart cucumbers.

Yes, love heart cucumbers! I know, I know it’s kitschy but it’s simple, adds a little flare to your Turkish breakfast and is sure to surprise – making your loved one smile from ear to ear on February 14.

Cucumber love hearts 1

Make a diagonal cut through the cucumber keeping the slices even and slim.

Cucumber love hearts 2

Now take that slice and cut diagonal again so there are two slices.

Cucumber love hearts 3

Flip one side over and plate.

Cucumber love hearts 4

Too easy, right!? Kind of cute? Go ahead and practice before the big day.

If you’re feeling particularly proud of your creation and plating technique feel free to Facebook or Tweet it with #lovelifeistanbul to return the love.

Afiyet olsun and enjoy your special Valentines.

10 things I miss about you…Istanbul

As an expat, no doubt you’ve been there. When you set up a new life in a new city, you seek out your hometown comforts in your newtown surrounds. Maybe it’s going on a mission to find the best coffee in your new neighbourhood, or seeking friends who connect with your nationality, or posting pleas online to find the products, the food, or the experiences that once made you hum in your hometown.

Perhaps you seek these things to close the gap between what you know and what you don’t know. Assimilation is simply gentler on the soul when your creature comforts are close by. They provide a steady platform, a familiar base, to dive head first into discovering a new and wondrous culture and its peculiar ways.

As time passes, the gap between the known and the unknown lessens. Your list of creature comforts grows to include the offerings of your newtown. You gain a sense of belonging, and with it, a new lifestyle and perspective emerges. You no longer feel like you’re drowning in the tides of cultural change. Instead, your wading, maybe even riding the waves, and your struggle with the oddities of your newtown, that once left you perplexed, have washed away.

You’re a local now (of the expat kind at least). You know where to find this and that, or how to get from point A to point B with ease. The language, the culture – all start to make sense. You respect it. In fact you no longer judge it, you indulge in it. Your two worlds, once awkward and creating friction, finally get along. Your newtown isn’t new anymore – it’s a place you call home.

I hadn’t realised how much Istanbul felt like home until last year. I packed away my work from home freelancing threads and suited up to return to my former corporate life in Australia. (Note: Hence my absence from this blog). I was immersed back into my old lifestyle and my hometown culture and after living in Istanbul, Australia didn’t feel like the home it once was.

I was perplexed. Had Australia changed? Had I changed? Had I really been that Turkified!?  I had to rediscover my hometown like a newtown to re-create my sense of belonging. I had to reassimilate.

I initially struggled to adapt to the oddities of Australia such as the abundance of space, the swearing, the drinking, the huge houses and other material values. I struggled with the need to be on time, to plan, to drive within the white lines, even to drive! All the things that once seemed familiar were somewhat awkward for me. I began to miss Istanbul. I began to miss…

1. Spontaneity

The traffic, complicated streets, the weather, the “rules aren’t for all” bureaucracy of a city of over 14 million people were factors that taught me I wouldn’t get what I wanted, when I wanted in Istanbul. My inner control freak died years ago as I embraced the city’s manic spontaneous ways which offered a more satisfying alternative to my initial plans.  It became a part of my lifestyle to “go with the flow” and embrace spontaneity.

One evening in Sydney, I was spontaneous. I ran across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to break-up the predictability of my working day. I gazed down to the peach-hued sails of the Sydney Opera House illuminated by sunset. A pearly patriotic smile flashed across my face and I sighed. I thought, this is beautiful, this is unique, this is just…

just…

not…

2. The Bosphorus

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Not to “diss” my country’s beloved iconic landmark. Sydney Harbour is an unmissable destination. But a wave of nostalgia washed over me as I peered down on the waters of Sydney Harbour. I missed the energy and the busyness of the Bosphorus – a waterway that divides Europe and Asia – that had fed my senses daily.  I longed to sit on a rickety wooden bench or a rocky outcrop on the cusp of a continent and feel the Bosphorus breeze on my cheek, watch a sunset silhouette the old city skyline, hear the caw of seagulls hoover overhead and taste the bitter-sweet flavour of a crimson glass of …

3. Çay (Turkish tea)

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A brewed English breakfast could not fill the void in Australia. Neither did an Earl Grey self-served in a shapely glass. I joined the corporate coffee culture instead where the day could not start without the jolt of a barista-style skinny cap, flat white or double espresso. Drinking them glued to the computer in the vortex of consumerism where deadlines were “by yesterday”, I yearned for a tulip-shaped glass of çay served with plenty of…

4. Keyif

Keyif, the art of idle relaxation. An art that brings pleasure, joy and contentment in the company of friends or strangers – without the deeds of deadlines – was lacking from my life.  I missed keyif on a Sunday morning or late into the evening where conversations jumped from global news, to family news, from gossip about the neighbours to truths about friendships and from telling jokes to stories of meaningful matters.  I missed the friends who were masters of this art and the banter associated with such gatherings. I wanted to engage again with people and say…

5. Turkish pleasantries

“Hayırlı olsun,” (let it be with goodness) was something I could not say within the fluidity of English when friends shared good news. “Geçmiş olsun,” was in my heart when, “Hope they get well soon,” flew out of my mouth. Phrases that don’t translate well in English that once left me perplexed were constantly on the tip of my tongue. “Güle güle kullan!” (Use it with smiles), “Kolay gelsin,” (May it come easy) and…

6. Afiyet olsun!

Before dinner. during dinner, after dinner.  My way of wanting to bless everyone I dined with with, “Afiyet olsun,” (enjoy your meal) was the hardest habit to break. “Bon appetit,” would spill from my lips instead, which proved too fancy. After all, when did Westerners ever acknowledge a co-worker dining on a ham sandwich in the lunchroom so formally?  Instead, I said nothing, I put my head down between conversations and ate whilst remembering to …   

7. Appreciate my food

554477_132225386902332_1282653357_n My Turkish friends once said to me, “Why do you eat so fast? Yavaş yavaş!” (Slow down). Eating fast was a by-product of my fast-paced, do everything by yesterday lifestyle in Australia…and I was slipping back into that realm. Life is too short to eat lunch by yourself at your desk.  Turkey had taught me that. Food is to be appreciated.  I now took time to savour the flavours and the keyif served generously on the side. Come to think of it, I missed the cuisine and the fresh produce to make up those meals in Turkey! I longed to swap the long polished aisles of my Australian mega-supermarket for the chaos of my…

8. Pazarlar! (Weekly street markets)

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Twice a week the main street near my home in Istanbul transforms into a fresh food market where I stock up on locally-grown produce. Not only is buying easy on the purse, it’s always entertaining to hustle with the head scarfed housewives and their three-wheel canvas carts to bag a bargain or two from rows of fervent sellers. More importantly, I missed what the markets created – I missed…

9. Life on the streets

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Whether it’s festivities in the streets, kids playing in the lane, remnants of chalk etchings of hopscotch on the path, or seeing wooden baskets lowered from apartments to collect goods from the bakkal (market), I missed seeing all the cues of life on the streets of Istanbul.  Sure, the drone of the eskci (junk collector) that resembles, ”Bring out the dead,” is a nuisance at times but I did miss the morning call from the man peddling pogača (small baked bread) from the street,  the call of, “Buyurun abla.” (Can I help you sister) as I walked through the markets, and the call of, “Bir lira,” (one lira) from the sellers with the yellow and red carts and most of all I missed …

10. The call to prayer

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The call, made five times a day, had become part of my list of creature comforts that tell me I’m in a place I call home. I missed hearing it – reminding me to pause, to “stop and smell the roses” and be present in that moment of life. Most of all I wanted to be where I loved hearing it most; atop a rooftop terrace at dusk, on the edge of the Bosphorus, with a crimson tea in hand, after a spontaneous day out with friends and with the call of a thousand muezzinler echoing across the city.

That same sound etched in my memory eventually called me back to Istanbul. Even though I tried, I could not find the things that made me hum in Istanbul in my hometown surrounds. After all, the things I missed were intangible in Australia. I could not put my finger on them or find them in my neighbourhood. I was somewhat lost without all my creature comforts surrounding me. My soul could not settle and a wave of homesickness for Turkey washed over me. I could have given more time for the feeling to subside, to settle, to become still. But my second home was calling me.

“Be like water,” a friend said to me, and,“Su gibi git, su gibi gel,” (go like water, come back like water) flowed freely from my tongue.

When the real Miss Turkey stood up

On Friday May 31, 2013 a woman named Ruveyda Öksüz was crowned Miss Turkey 2013 in Istanbul with all the pomp and diamantes you would expect from a beauty pageant. Whilst Turkish TV had eyes only for the pageant, down the road – in Taksim Square – a significant human movement to restore democracy was under-way.

It’s been widely reported internationally how police brutally fired tear gas and water cannons on peaceful protesters working to save Gezi Park – the only green space left in Taksim area and how shockingly, it wasn’t reported  locally by mainstream Turkish media. Residents and friends of Turkey desperate for information flocked to social media instead.

In contrast, in October 2010 a suicide bomber in Taksim Square had local media diverting broadcasts to the incident – just as CNN or BBC do whenever a major event would happen locally. But last Friday, when people demonstrated against the government, Turkish mainstream media stayed away and the pageant paraded on.

Excellent posts like those listed below have since been written and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself has made inflammatory comments about the demonstrators. His comments and actions have resulted in violent clashes with vandalism and regrettably people have been killed, injured and uncomplimentary images had been published that have had an immediate adverse impact for tourism and investments in Turkey.

This week, wonderful images have emerged from the demonstrators in Taksim and beyond. Not only do they dismiss Erdoğan’s very public view labelling demonstrators as extremists, marauders and drunks, they show the real faces of the demonstrators and the real winners of Miss Turkey 2013 have finally been captured on film.

Women have shown outstanding bravery all over Turkey – taking the full brunt of the police force, offering kindness to the law enforcers despite the brutality and they’ve stood up for their country to create a better future for their children and for their loved homeland of Turkey. They are the women who represent Turkey in 2013 and that mainstream Turkish media is worth reporting.

We have seen what damage giving too much power to one can do, so let’s not give out one tiara. Let’s give out many to the women who have stood up and fought to reclaim a secular and free Turkey. Here are the real winners of Miss Turkey 2013 and they don’t need a diamond, pearly teeth or a flashy dress to prove it – they just have an enormous heart and soul for their country – something men and women can all admire and learn from all around the world.

(Note: It is often difficult to find the original source of these photos. Please email me so I can acknowledge the photographer. If you have photos of inspirational women I would gladly add them to this collection, refer to my About page for contact details. More power to the men out there too alongside our sisters!)

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Source: Reuters/Deniz Celik

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Source: Anonymous

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Sign says: You said to my son, get your mom and go away. Also you said to my grandson and daughters, Çapulcu! I’m 87 years old I can’t get up from the bed, come next to me for a while, I’ll tell you something. Source: statigr.am

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Source: RUETERS/Osman Orsal

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Source: Fil'm Hafizasi

Yoga in Gezi Park. Source: Fil’m Hafizasi

My thoughts and heart are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in these protests. I pray with you all that a peaceful solution is found to restore democracy in one of the most amazing countries of the world.

Please watch: TENCERE TAVA HAVASI (Sound of Pots and Pans) / Kardeş Türküler

5 reasons why Istanbul is like a lover

Oh BradMany people I meet, who live in distant lands, say to me, “You’re so lucky to live in Istanbul! I wish I could live in Istanbul.”

I’ve comforted visitors who shed tears as the call to prayer plays over the city, because Istanbul has touched their heart like no other city has. I’ve also noticed my fellow expats freely personify the city like their lover: “Istanbul and I have a love hate relationship, but Istanbul is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Many love stories about Istanbul made me realise – Istanbul really is like a lover! Here’s five reasons why -written in the Oh Brad! style for those who have fallen for this dramatic city.

  1. Oh Istanbul, when we first met you wined and dined me and showered me with compliments – it was love at first sight.
  2. Oh Istanbul, you keep your secrets close to your heart. You’re so mysterious. It keeps me intrigued and when you share your secrets with me I just love you so much more!
  3. Oh Istanbul, you leave me without a car or cash, and I wonder if I am meant to be with someone else but, I’m glad we met – I’ll never be the same.
  4. Oh Istanbul, when you treat me well it is like heaven on earth, but when I start dissing you behind your back, you retaliate and treat me mean.
  5. Oh Istanbul, I know when we part ways, my heart will be broken and I’ll have urges to run back your arms, because I will crave your spontaneity and easy going nature.

Recently, Istanbul and I have had a tough relationship.  Now the sun is out and the days are longer I am appreciating Istanbul more. We have fallen in love again and our future is bright.