An African's Anecdotes and Accoutrements
|Today I girded my loins , and took a drive to Bornova. It’s the first time I’ve been out of the house since returning from Zimbabwe on Sunday evening. Not that I have cabin fever or anything... the first reason was to do some shopping, and the second was to get Kit washed.
I’ve been munching my way through the tins in my pantry, something that’s easy to do when the house is home to me and the two dogs. My poor husband is right now on his way back home from Amsterdam - his carbon footprint for this year is massive, particularly for the last six weeks. Before we flew to Zim he was in India for a few days helping design a processing line. The day after he returned we flew to Zim via London and Johannesburg. On Monday afternoon he flew to Amsterdam for a meeting with tobacco people from all over the world. He arrives home at 1 am tonight - one hour after midnight! I reckon he’s going to be sleeping all weekend.
So today I thought I’d better go shopping - I love cooking, and will spend tomorrow making a few soups to freeze, spaghetti bolognaise (also to freeze) and chicken casserole (to freeze). I also found a nice brinjel pate recipe in my “Slim-u-Slim” recipe book... because we both need to diet.
Kit (my car is named after the “Knightrider” car because it drives on its own) was so dirty I had to rinse the windows just so I could see where I was going. This was perhaps not such a good idea, because everyone could see who had left their car to get into such a bad state. I managed to drive on the WRONG side of the road all the way to Bornova Kipa - in Zimbabwe we drive on the right hand side of the road, just like England and Australia; Turkey, like mainland Europe and the USA drives on the left. After leaving Kit in the trusty hands of the manual carwash (four men to wash one tiny Citroen Saxo) I headed into Kipa.
Ninety minutes later I emerged shaking. Having secured all the items on my shopping list I was now 390 Lira (US$270) poorer. Although the supermarket trolley was full there was NO alcohol (which is very expensive here) and no dog food (also expensive). The real shocker was the price of meat. When I left here lamb chops cost around 24 Lira/kilogram. Today I paid 29 Lira/kilogram - in just three weeks? Minced beef has also gone up by around 15 percent, and I couldn’t find any decent fresh fish. Milk has also increased in price - one litre of milk is 1.85 Lira - up from 1.50 three weeks ago. Flour has also gone up in price. At least chicken is still cheap.
I’ve no idea what’s going on here, but right now Zimbabwe is cheaper than Turkey, and that’s the price of imported products! In fact Zimbabwe’s beef is a third of the price of this place, and that despite Mugabe’s followers virtually wiping out the entire beef industry over the past nine years! By the time I reached shiny clean Kit I felt better, and was able to drive home with the knowledge that I’ve bought a week’s worth of meat and vegetables, and two to three weeks worth of other groceries.
Autumn has come to Izmir, but it’s not obvious driving along the roads to my house. I live in a tiny village called Yakkakoy, on the highway between Izmir and a city called Manisa. The area is densely forested, with silvery olive trees and dark green pine trees lining the roads, farms and restaurants en route to my home in Professolori Sitesi. It’s a pretty drive, although one has to be careful of the humans, tractors, humans, horses, humans, sheep and humans who wander around the area without much thought or concern for the cars belting down the road at speeds that would make Michael Schumacher or Jenson Button envious.
I don’t speed, not because I don’t want to but because as a foreigner the last thing I want or need is to be involved in any incident concerning the police. I found myself looking out for the little foal grazing with his mother on the farm just before the “welcome to Yakkakoy” sign, and the donkeys outside the derelict barns on the other side of the road. I waved at the people stationed outside each restaurant whose sole purpose is to wave at drivers to encourage them to come and dine at their “restoran”. I drove around the tiny cemetery, admiring the restoration work that began just before we went to Africa. The little marble turbans atop each tombstone are now shiny white, the dull grey dirt scrubbed off each one. They’re still tipping over; to be expected after a century in the ground I guess.
Like all villages in Turkey, Yakkakoy centres around a massive mosque. During Ramazan the mosque was given a facelift, so now the massive round building is even more visible, its towering minaret pointing straight up into the sky. In times gone by the Imam was supposed to climb up the minaret and call people to prayer. Then the minarets were not very tall, but thanks to technology they’ve grown taller than the actual mosque. The Iman delivers his summons to the faithful from ground level, singing into a microphone that transmits his voice through loudspeakers at the top of the minaret. Part of the facelift was to cover the building in tiny white mosaic tiles, with the occasional green tile giving a speckled effect. Green is the colour of Islam. At the top of the mosque the name “Allah” is pasted in green tiles. Yakkakoy is apparently and old Greek village, so most of the houses and building are somewhat shabby. The contrast with the opulence of the brilliant, gleaming mosque is sobering, as is the sight of the men sitting outside the coffee shop, sipping strong aromatic coffee, smoking and chatting. The only woman I usually see is the wife of the owner of the small shop where I buy bread and bottled water. She never wears a headscarf.
My thoughts were interrupted when a sheep leapt out onto the road in front of my car. I stopped, amazed as it trotted off down the side road, to be followed by six or seven more animals. What was surprising was that they’d climbed down some steep stairs to reach the road, and were hurrying across it to reach a water trough at the end of the side street. Sheep? In the middle of the village? On the main road? Only in Turkey!
After allowing the sheep to cross the road I encountered a beautiful, jewel-coloured rooster, surrounded by four rather drab little hens. They clucked furiously as I cruised past them. I noticed a pretty grey and white cat on the wall opposite, cleaning his paws carefully and paying scant attention to the handsome rooster and his harem.
That’s as close as we get to natural wildlife in Turkey - horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, chickens, dogs and cats. I can always go to the zoo downtown, but after experiencing elephants, hippo, zebra, giraffe, lions etc in the wild (where they should be) I’ll stick with the selection available at Yakkakoy!