The Antidote to Purple Prose

In case my somewhat purple prose spouting about the joys of hanging around in Aegean Turkey is turning anyone’s stomach here is a slight reality check on the joys of running a renovation project.  This is also aimed at those people who think we live a terribly glamorous life and all our time in Turkey is a “holiday”.

So far this year we have acquired between us 7 new scars from rebar accidents – Phil is in the lead, he had fallen more times than me – 2 new scars from standing on rusty nails, we have had chest infections from breathing ancient dust, food poisoning from just grabbing food anywhere in town, flu and sunstroke.  We have developed bladders which can go for 16 hours without a loo (no toilets on projects until the last few weeks!).  We have come across rats, poisonous snakes, huge spiders and the occasional irritated goat with large horns.

When you take down an old ceiling the rat droppings and dead beetles fall on your head.

We have spent what amounts to weeks in various government offices between Kusadasi and Aydin.  In summer the offices are boiling hot, in winter they are freezing.  Often we will travel 100 km to pick up a piece of paper to take to an office 10km away.  Often we don’t know why!  Each visit to an office costs at least 50ytl.  The paperwork is unbelievable!

We spend a lot of time just sitting around waiting.  We once spent 14 hours waiting for a man to come back from picking olives so he could move his dolmus so the JCB we had sitting there at 100 ytl an hour could make it through the narrow streets to the project.

We had to pay the village plumber to fix the water main that our JCB driver broke – on eight different occasions!

We once spent 10 hours in 40 degree heat selecting ceramics.  When I went to place the order the next morning I was told they didn’t make them anymore!

We endure thunderstorms of epic proportions where the rain fall froths as it falls in the high oxygen content of the air; then there are days when we move 200 boxes of tiles in the heat of the summer.

Sometimes I have driven to Kusadasi to have the hairdressing team scrape cement out of my hair.

Most evenings I wash the muck out of my clothes by treading on them whilst I shower.

Some days I would kill for a ham sandwich (this is pathetic).

The last time we bought wildly expensive vitreous glass mosaic tiles that were imported from Italy the fitters ruined them in 15 minutes flat.

Sometimes workers don’t turn up because they are embarrassed that they didn’t work hard enough the day before.

You spend a lot of time avoiding being killed or maimed by enthusiastic workers wielding lethal instruments with complete abandon.  I once saw a workman cut halfway through a roof timber with a chain saw and then jump and down on it to finish the job.  The beam was 2.5 metres off the ground at the time and was holding up a wall.

Sometimes you will hold up a project for two weeks for a workman that wants paying the second after he arrives.

But even with all of the above this is fun.  Everyday something makes us laugh.  Every day we get a little more accepted – normally when we are at our most filthy, because when I am covered with sweat streaked dust then the men tell me I work like a Turkish woman!  And I feel a real sense of pride at that!  Everyday we remember that whilst this weird and often frustrating way of life is not for everyone it is for us, and we really do love it.

Oh and we have learnt the most disgusting Turkish curses!  Always handy!

November 2006