To tell the truth, I do not travel well.  Rather than enjoying the travel experience, for me, it is more the ‘price you pay’ to arrive at your destination.

Our trip down from the UK via a Turkish budget airline was uneventful.  However, once landed, we pass through passport control and retrieved our baggage, the official bit of travelling is done.  Then the question of how to get from the airport to our accommodation for the night I could put off no longer.

Of all the various means before us, being met by friends, taking the city bus, the airport service bus or a taxi to our destination, choosing was difficult.  The city bus runs an express service to the centre of Kadıköy which is near, but not actually that close to our destination.  The Airport Service which is more direct than the city bus, but also does not go genuinely close to our goal.  Taxis go the most direct and quickest route, but this is offset by the cost.  Maybe it was the time of day, the darkness or just being tired… we opted for a taxi.

We bundled into the conveyance, I got in beside the driver and we headed off.  Unlike in London where Black cab drivers must pass the “Knowledge”, here taxi drivers rarely know exactly where you want to go but will figure it out along the way.
  Our driver first opted to avoid the E5 dual carriageway as it would be the definitive illustration of congested traffic.  I observed that as the plane landed and we crossed the E5, it was a panorama of traffic, standing still or creeping along.  I did not object to his choice.

From the airport we joined the TEM motorway, which is a road I know and would have used if I were driving.  However, our driver, feeling that traffic would be too much, opted instead to turn onto a new motorway which goes to the new third bridge over the Bosphorus.  This bridge is on the coast of the Black sea, quite a ways north of where we were and where we intended to go.

I bowed to local knowledge and raised no objections.  So we departed the road I knew and headed into terra incognito.

Mind you, I am curious regarding the new bridge and the new motorways connecting it….  I wasn’t wanting to cross back into Europe on our first night in….  This was especially true as our friend’s home is on the Asian side of the city, the same side as the airport and the motorway we were travelling on.

The driver was correct, traffic was light.  He was flying along.  I must admit I was feeling like we were being driven by a descendant of Jehu the prophet.

Our direction of travel was north, north-west.  Our friends live basically westward.  Hence, we are travelling in a negative direction, and for every kilometre north there will be a corresponding kilometre south.  I am not worried.  I trust the driver.  But… but… we are going out of our way, and at great speed….

I admit to enjoying the forested hills and travelling over impressive concrete via-ducts.  There is something impressive about being transported high over valleys.  Then I spot a motorway sign showing an exit for Umraniye.  Now, for me Umraniye is meaningless save that is where we could turn south, south-west and be really heading towards our goal.

Our driver is making excellent time, racing along in lane four – the furthest from the exit.  The first exit sign has come and gone, and still he continues thundering down lane four, traffic occupying the three lanes to our right.
Now, honestly, I am quietly concerned.  I really, really want to see the third bridge, but NOT tonight.  I keep quiet… either your trust your driver or you do not….

The exit is nigh, and dare I say at the last moment, the driver begins to ‘power over’ to the exit.  Room or no room, cars and such, are all immaterial, he is shooting for the exit…. Which we duly take.

This new road is also a sparsely utilised eight lane motorway.  With the road wide open, our driver speeds up and we take up our position, once again, in lane four.  I am much happier in myself as we are now heading directly towards our goal.  But, naturally, as we draw near Umraniye area, the traffic increases immensely.

Soon we are in a long, never-ending parking lot like experience.  Traffic, that is standing traffic, is everywhere.  The dual carriageway is no longer eight lane but six; we have road markings for three lanes, but we have four lanes of traffic jostling for position and advancement.

We are near the high hill called “Çamlıca”.  Near the top the Turkish state has built a brand new massive mosque which dominates the skyline and is visible from many miles away.  It is a glorious testament to power and influence of the government – just like the grandiose buildings that grace so many cities in the UK.  Those impressive stone edifices built during the time of the British Empire and are a lasting testament to the power and wealth of that era.

The city of Istanbul is likewise graced with many extraordinary edifices which the Ottoman Empire erected over the course of 600 plus years.  They stand as a clear and lasting testament to the power and might of that immense empire.

This latest mosque is on that scale.  But it speaks not of the past but the current state of the Republic of Turkey.
Traffic being what it was, we had ample time to appreciate the massive complex.

IMG_0327In contrast, on the back side of the hill and nearer the summit, a massive concrete pillar soars into the sky.  Still under construction, it is to be a new communications tower. The goal is to replace the rather ugly cluster of communication and television towers on top of Çamlıca, moving them to the top of the new tower.  That will be a marked improvement.

However, the tower, in its current unfinished state, looks like a unimaginative phallic symbol thrust impossibly high into the sky.   Standing without the communication rigs secured to the pinnacle nor the viewing platforms and restaurants completed, it is merely the carcass upon which the tower will be built. Yet, when it is finished, it will be a wonder to behold, soaring 365.5 metres and this from on top of a hill.  It will the tallest building and a landmark in Istanbul.

This dual carriageway, thronged with crawling traffic goes under the skirt of this hill through a tunnel.  On emerging from the tunnel, the overhead signs declare a division in the roadway;  straight ahead to Üsküdar, our destination, or right to the second bridge and Europe.  Traffic is inching along towards Üsküdar; I am happy-ish.  At the least, we are travelling toward our goal.

Our driver manoeuvres, with difficulty, to the right.  This is the exit that goes, according to the overhead sign, and to the best of my knowledge where I do NOT want to go.  I have absolutely no desire to go over the second bridge – none.

Traffic is not moving, it is stop and go with the emphasis on stop.  As I observed, our driver has, with difficulty, left the Üsküdar bound lanes and now we are estranged from them, from the lanes going where I want to go…. And by separated I mean with a substantial barrier – there can be no repentance now.

Either you trust the driver or you do not…  I sat silently.  Inside I was in a roiling turmoil.

We slowly crawl along to a road jutting off to the right – well it couldn’t go left could it, as that is where the standing traffic is.  Our driver, with purpose and direction, turns on to this road and leaves the masses behind.  The road is much narrower, only a two lane passage.  But, there are far fewer who are using it, so our speed has increased immediately.
Down we fly, following the meandering path of this residential street.  We come to a sharp turn and it is an acute turn up the hill.  We take that and are shortly going over top of the motorway that is going to the second bridge.  This driver knows his stuff.

We turn right and I am surprised at the good time we are making considering the time of day.  We are now in Üsküdar proper and heading towards the banks of the Bosphoros.  The road crested the summit, and we plunged down the narrow road towards the shore below.  We come to a ‘Y’ junction and the driver, decisively and with purpose takes the left arm.

Now travelling on a steep, narrow, cobbled road there is just enough room to pass the cars parked on one side.  Down we go, the road turns to the left sharply down until we come to a sign strategically placed across the road declaring the road closed.  There is nothing for it.  With absolutely no room to turn around, the only action is to reverse back up whence we came.  I am glad I was not driving.

Now the driver took this in his stride.  He did not throw a wobbly, nor curse the city council nor any other emotional diatribe.  He put the taxi in reverse and cautiously reversed back up the hill between the parked cars, the edge of the road and back to the curve.

Well, before we got there, another vehicle came down the same, narrow, cobblestone passage.  The descending vehicle came to where we were.  Naturally we stopped.
After some mutual stopped-ness, our driver energetically gestured to the descended one to reverse up the hill.
He did.  We did.

Finally, we arrived back at the ‘Y’ junction and this time took the right arm, quickly descending the last bit of the hill.  Once on the sea-side road we passed by the end of the road we had attempted.  The workers had not yet laid the final stretch of cobblers, the road was impassible.  Added to this was a massive pile of sand blocking the exit.

We travelled along the side of the Bosphoros coming to the major square of Üsküdar.  The city council has redesigned this square many times over the years we lived there.  Once again they are redeveloping it…  the last time for a long while I hope.

Whatever they have done, traffic was manageable, and we made it through the maze expeditiously.  There is a one-way road at the bottom of the hill to the south.  Sometimes it is a one-way up and sometimes it is a one-way down.  It too has changed many times over the years.  On that day it was a one-way up, exactly what we needed.  Up we went.

Then travelling up Doğancılar street, we passed all the roads to the left which are all posted ‘Do Not Enter’.  Then we come to the one we want, a one-way, and going our way.

We power up the road, over the summit down part way on the other side to our destination.  We have arrived.

Mind you, going this way and that, up, down and back, it all has a cost.  It came to ₺150 which is a lot of money.   Shocked me it did. Works out to about £25 or $37 USD.

Through it all, we were at the mercy of a complete stranger.  We had to trust him.  We had to have faith he would convey us to our stated destination.  We encountered difficulties, struggles, barriers, and we were not driving.  It very much affected us, but it was not ours to solve.  We were to sit there and let the driver handle and sort it.  He did.

For me, this speaks of the Christian walk.  We must trust and have faith in God.  Whatever the barriers, struggles or troubles, letting Him sort it and carry us on to our destination.  Importantly, He is not a stranger, He is not ‘sorting it as he goes along’ like our driver.  He never makes a misstep nor takes a wrong turn.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, either I trust the driver, or not…

It was in the autumn of 2003, the weather was still very pleasantly hot in Istanbul. I needed to go somewhere new in the city and I had never been there before. To complicate matters, I was not really sure of the directions on how to get there. Istanbul is a huge city – it has great communications, bus, mini-bus, underground, ferries – large and small, cable car – it is really well serviced… but, there is always a ‘but’, the population has expanded beyond the capacity of even this broad, rich and varied public transportation system.

On this day I headed out to the banks of the Bosphorus Straight – that international water-way that divides the European side and the Asian side of the city of Istanbul, that salt-water passage that connects the Black Sea and the Marmara sea – near the harbour in Kadıköy (formerly known in ancient times as Chalcedon).  I entered the man-made maze created by the multifarious lanes and a myriad of bus stands, all filled with a teeming swarm of buses that make up this, one of the multitude of city bus stations in this mega-city.

This open air station is a continuously surging shoal of city and private buses, disgorging their human cargo and reloading for the next foray as they power forth into the maelstrom of Istanbul traffic. Each bus, council or private, is prominently proclaiming the name of their destination and their route designation on the front, sides and rear of the bus.

The problem for me is I did not know nor recognise any of these destinations nor did I have any idea of where they are located in the city nor what the numbers of the routes mean. All this very valuable information, which is full of meaning for the many and yet, sadly, devoid of any practical meaning to the uninitiated such as I.

I had been instructed and was diligently searching for the ‘14Y’ designation. My problem was, I was finding a significant number of buses with destinations beginning with 14 – but, alas, none ending in all-important ‘Y’.

Finally, I caught sight of ‘my’ bus, standing at its appointed spot, across the many lanes from where I was. On seeing it, I carefully, and yet as quickly as I could, made my way, doing my best to avoid the buses powering away from their stands and heading out into traffic and other buses prowling through the narrow lanes to arrive at their appointed resting places.

On attaining the correct stand, I entered ‘my bus’ and pressed my ‘Akbil’ (a Turkish name representing ‘White Ticket’) to be rewarded with the satisfying ‘bee-boop ’ which indicated that my ticket had been accepted. This ‘Akbil’ is kind of like a key fob, but the electronic head had been charged with some money and on every use the cost of the ticket is deducted from the total. Every time you press the key fob, you hear the comforting ‘Bee-boop’ and you know you have paid the cost of the ticket – no hassling with correct change and such, it has simply been deducted from my device – what a wonderful system!

As I sit waiting for the bus to depart, I ponder the fact that I had been rushing to find the bus as I absolutely abhor being in the position where I would arrive at the appointed spot in time to forlornly watch the tail-lights of the bus powering out of the station – I dread missing my bus by a minute. My motto – ‘better a half hour early than a half minute late’.

This day I was happily early. However, in my haste not to miss my bus, I had successfully missed my lunch. In fact, I hadn’t even brought a bottle of water to quench my thirst and there was no way that I was about to leave the bus to find water.

Then I observed man boarding the bus – he didn’t purchase a ticket – in his hand he was carrying a blue pail and in the pail, proper, sealed, bottled water which he was offering for sale. Once he has visited our bus, looking for custom, he would exit and board the next bus. This water seller isn’t sitting somewhere waiting for custom to seek him out or to go to him, he is proactively out, he is diligently searching for buyers, wherever they may be hiding. He is bringing his service to wherever custom may be found.

Now, on another day, at our flat in Idealtepe in Istanbul, I heard a strange noise emanating from the street outside our home – some kind of power machine making an unfamiliar and rather unusual sound. I looked out my window and there was a flat-bed lorry standing in the street. On the back was a large table and on one side was a machine. A man and a boy were manhandling a large runner type carpet onto the back of the lorry. They twisted and turned their awkward burden, to line it up and put it into the machine and then carefully they guided the edge through the machine. Two balls of cotton or twine or some other material magically spun and twirled as the thread was pulled off and into the machine. Powering all this was a small petrol powered electrical generator. The machine itself was stitching a proper, finely finished edge to the carpet.

Not leaving any opportunity ignored, this industrious individual has taken his lorry and offers not only repair work, but people can purchase a hall runner from him and get it cut to their own, unique specifications, and then have it machine finished, right there on the lorry, outside their home.

The carpet finisher isn’t in a shop, somewhere, waiting for you to come to him, rather, he has chosen to go out onto the streets and is actively seeking for custom.

Have you ever found yourself out and about when you remember that you need something photocopied?

That is not a problem here in Turkey. Of course you could go to a copy-shop and have it done there, or you could simply pause on the street corner where a man has a photocopier and a small electrical generator, both mounted on a small cart – he stands ever ready to do your photocopying right there on the street while you wait.

And if, by chance, you want it laminated, well, there is another chap standing nearby with a cart, generator and laminator – waiting to serve you.

They are out, pro-actively seeking custom.

Sitting in your home you become accustomed to various calls resonating through the streets. The dulcet tones of a lady singing “SeeepPPPpet VaaaarrrRRRR” and you know the lady peddling plastic kitchenware is making her way down your street.

Once or twice a day you will hear the sing-song call “EeeSSssskkkiiiiJJJJJiiiiiIII—ahhhHHHhh” – the rag and bones man is making his presence known.

Sometimes the caller has a distinctive call which I have been unable to distil down into recognisable words – but everyone recognises his call and everyone knows what he sells.

The call rings forth, sounding like “SoooOOOOOooootTttt” – ah, you say to yourself, the melon seller is going by.

In fact, the sound distils down to resemble the Turkish word for milk and bears no likeness that I can discern with the Turkish word for melon, but everyone understands his unique call and instinctively knows what he is peddling.

Another variant is to change the word order. For example normally you declare the equivalent of ‘Fresh Bread Rolls’ but what a local seller declares as he walks the streets is ‘Bread Rolls Fresh’. He has made it different to catch your attention and becomes his own unique, differentiating catch phrase.

This is true for virtually everything you will need. Everything may be a bit more expensive, or there may be less selection or it may not be as fresh as you would like, but, you could practically source everything you need from your own door step.

Bottled water, plastics, cleaning supplies, clothes, cloth, blankets, shoes, sheets, vegetables, cleaning supplies – and more than I can currently recall.

All brought to your door. Full service, and with a smile.

The Turkish attitude to employment is very pro-active. If someone hasn’t or cannot find a ‘normal’ job, they may be able to create a job, to meet a need, to fill a gap; to earn a crust. As it says in Proverbs: “The appetite of labourers works for them; their hunger drives them on.” Proverbs 16:26 NIVUK

For the rest of the population, yes, they can go to shops, malls, markets and other places to buy various things – but at the same time, there is a whole army of people bringing their goods and services to whomsoever, wherever they may be.

 

Equi's Fish & ChipsTo be honest, I do not enjoy eating fish. Well, the notable exception is the excellent Fish& Chips from Equi’s in Hamilton, Scotland. Their Fish & Chips are light, fluffy, not oily, no bones – absolutely wonderful.

But in all other cases, is it the taste, or the bones, or the smell or the skin that I find offensive?

Probably “Yes” to all the above.

However, my better half has a deep felt appreciation of a good fish meal. I encourage her to indulge and have fish whenever she so desires; as long as I do not have to join with her, I am happy. But she is not keen on preparing two different meals – the old cost – benefit calculation: the cost (preparing two different meals) against the benefit (having a fish feast) generally results in her not having fish as often as she may like.

Maybe, just maybe, having fish less frequently enhances the pleasure when she is able to partake of it.

However, if we ever go out for a meal, it is a prime opportunity for us to have something different, without the hassle. Well, there is always the hassle of the bill, but that is a different story.

Recently we were blessed by two young people who came down from the UK to help with the refugee ministry. They may not appreciate being referred to as ‘young people’ but at less than ⅓ of my age, to me they are young people – full of vim and vigour. Therefore, although they are older than I was when I married my wife, and they are in full time education in University, for the duration of this blog, they will be referred to as ‘young people’.

They helped in preparing the bags of food stuffs, in loading the lorry and in the distribution of the food to the Syrian refugee field workers living in the fields northeast of town.

They also helped with the children’s work, both in the city and out with the refugee children. They do not speak either Turkish or Arabic, but the children responded to the attention, playing games and interacting with adults who have time for them.

They also dug a pit in the middle of our courtyard, ½ metre deep and roughly 1½ metre by 1¾ in size.

the holeYes, we wanted the hole dug.

So it seemed only right that on the day before their departure, after all their diligent labours and as a small way to say ‘thank you’, my wife and I took them to see a few of the local sights.

We had suggested a walking tour of the so-called Titus Tunnel – this amazing civil engineering feat; a tunnel dug, with hand tools, through solid rock, roughly 2,000 years ago, in the time of the Roman Empire.

Seleucia & AntiochThe tunnel was initially commissioned by Titus’s father Vespasian as a water diversion project to protect the harbour of Seleucia – the harbour of Antioch. Antioch is twenty odd kilometres inland, and Seleucia acted as the harbour of Antioch and from time to time hosted elements of the Roman navy.

The project consisted of a dam, upper approach channel, the first tunnel, a short intermediary channel, the second tunnel and a very long discharge channel to take the waters to the sea – all to by-pass the harbour and the inevitable slitting that resulted. The whole series runs roughly 1.4 kilometres in length.

The work was begun by Vespasian, carried on by his son Titus and, finally, it was fully finished some thirty years after it was begun by Antoninius Pius.

This amazing undertaking was designed by engineers of the Tenth legion Fratensis, and built by Roman legionaries, sailors, and, unavoidably, prisoners. Some scholars believe that Jewish slaves, who were taken by Titus in the siege and destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70 – as recorded by Flavius Josephus, a Roman-Jewish historian – were employed in the construction of this channel.

The works began with a dam to divert the waters of the gorge to the tunnel. The dam was constructed of a masonry structure 16 metres high and was 5 metres wide at the crest. From the dam to the tunnel there was a 55 metre long approach channel.

Upper Entrance - 06-09-08 Titus Tunel Samandag DSCF2769The tunnel itself was to be forced through the base of the intervening hill – a rocky spur of the mountains from which the flash floods would torrent down the narrow ravine and, before this civil engineering marvel, deposit their debris into and silting up the harbour.

Here is where it becomes truly amazing. Using just hand tools, the living rock of the mountain was excavated, creating a channel 6.3 metres wide, 5.8 metres high and for a length of 90 metres and that is just the first tunnel.

This tunnel is high and wide enough for two articulated lorries to pass side by side!

After the first tunnel, there is an intermediate channel which connects the two tunnel sections. This channel is still deep under the hill, being 5.5 metres wide, 64 metres long, but, significantly, 25-30 metres high and with just a narrow slit, 2 metres or so wide, open to the sky.

Following this is the second, shorter tunnel which is 31 metres in length, 7.3 metres wide and 7.2 metres in height.

Thus, to traverse under the mountain spur required tunnelling for a distance of 185 metres through solid, rock-hard rock. But this, in and of itself, was not the solution to the problem.

Once on the opposite side of the hill the flood waters still had to be safely directed away from the harbour. Hence, a discharge channel to the sea was constructed. This was 635 metres long, with varying widths ranging from 3.8 to 7.2 metres and the height of the walls of this channel vary from 3.7 to 15 metres. This, once again, was hand chiselled out of the unbroken bedrock. The course of the discharge channel travelled towards the Mediterranean Sea, following the hillside and bending to the right to carry the waters well away from the harbour mouth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It really is an awe-inspiring structure and I felt, well worth sharing with our visiting young people. One of the young people is reading engineering and this is a good example of Roman engineering, and the other is reading architecture and funnily enough, this is a good example of Roman design.

They seemed to appreciate it. Mind you, I did get a bit lost – how do you get ‘a bit lost’?

This is how: after we exited the tunnel on the topside, I struck out to find the overland trail that takes you back over the top of the hill – something I’ve done numerous times in the past. Initially things went well, but after a while, it became clear to me that we had passed the point where the stream bed, where we were walking, and the trail intersected. This would be the ‘little bit lost’ bit, as I did not know where we were, where the path was, but I did know how to go back if it came to that…

Over Top Trail - 06-09-08 Titus Tunel Samandag DSCF2790In the end I did find the trail head! We returned via the overland route, standing above the entrance to the tunnel which was at the bottom of a vertical drop from the trail side and cresting the hill, seeing the expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea with an incredibly long, straight stretch of sandy beach for kilometres going south ending in the spectacular, in Turkish `Kel Dağı’ being translated as ‘Bald Mountain’ – in ancient times it was known as Mt. Casius now is also known as Jebel Aqra – rising out of the sea and the far slopes of the mountain demarcating the border of Turkey and Syria. It was a bit a palaver finding the start of the trail, but I think well worth the effort. Not sure what the young people thought….

After our walking tour through the tunnel and back over the hill – and after looking down through the 1½ – 2 metre wide slit at the top of the 64 metre interconnecting channel of the two tunnels – we took a short excursion to the local necropolis Beşik Mağara – The King’s Grave, an ancient graveyard carved, once again into the solid rock, with rooms, and rooms off rooms, and chambers and graves filling all the spaces.

When all was said and done, we returned to the ticket booth at the entrance to the combined site. It was time for lunch.

As we were by the sea shore and in the small village of Çevlik, I asked what the young people would like to eat for lunch.

Actually, what I asked was if they enjoyed ‘fish’ – I already know my wife does and this seemed like a natural opportunity.

Our young people enthusiastically said they very much enjoy fish.

So I asked the man in the ticket booth if there was a ‘good’ fish restaurant nearby. He had a recommendation. He also left nothing to chance, he made a call and the owner of the restaurant hopped on his motorcycle and sped up to the entrance of the Tunnel to guide us back to his restaurant.

Good thing, too, as I would never, ever have found it otherwise – it was past all the restaurants in the village proper, and a good ways down a road that led to the harbour side.

The restaurant was right on the harbour front, one side facing the road, the opposite side was the concrete apron of the harbour.

The building consisted of a large, high roof with open sides, gravel floor, simple tables and the ubiquitous plastic chairs which are normally white, but in this instance they were brown – on the left, under the large roof a small kitchen area had been created and with a cement floor.

To be honest, it wasn’t the most attractive of places and if it hadn’t been heartily recommended and if the owner himself had not collected us and brought us here, I would never have darkened the doorway.

My first question was if they had any alternatives to fish.

I’m a diabetic, the others were understandably hungry and they wanted to eat, however, I needed to eat. Happily they cater for the odd non-fish eater.

We sat down a bit away from a party of what looked like dock and boat yard labourers. There was no one else in the, er, restaurant.

Also, there was no menu.

When asked what they had, he said he had two kinds of fish and he rattled off their names – in Turkish. Now, not being a regular fish buyer, I knew the words to be some kind of seafood, but what kind, I hadn’t the foggiest notion.

A quick recourse to my ever present dictionary (smartphones can be very helpful), I presented the two offerings to the fish-eaters; bass or sea bream. Not being a fish-eater, knowing the English names didn’t mean any more to me than the Turkish names.

They opted for bass, and for me, I took the chap’s recommendation for the non-fish alternative – never get clever and make suggestions in a restaurant like that.  Let them make what they know, are comfortable with and have the ingredients for.

My kebab came and it was fine. They will receive no prize for portion size , presentation nor flavour, but it did the job, seemed to be well cooked and safe meat – what more could I want?

IMG_2110The bass platters came and I was assured by those who heartily partook that it was not just good, but very good. The owner assured me the fish was not 24 hours out of the water caught in that general vicinity and landed in this harbour the previous night.

As we were sitting there, letting our meals settle, there was progressively intruding loud and distinctive noise coming from our left as we were looking at the harbour. Slowly, a massive and I mean a really, really, really big crane came crawling into sight.

No doubt there are larger such monstrosities in the world, but this was happening before our eyes and it was, for us, a very, very large crane.

IMG_2116It was moving along the harbour front; well, by ‘moving’ I mean it was slowly creeping along.

Nevertheless, because of it’s size it was mesmerising. As our guests seemed to be interested in the slowing passing sight, we remained at our table – I suppose it was our after dinner entertainment.

I counted the counter-weights on the back of the crane, it was carrying 100 tonnes of counter-weights in addition to its already impressive bulk.

One of our young people was now standing, staring, fascinated by the sight before him when the man guiding the machine forward saw him and called him over. He immediately ran over in front of the trudging mega-crane.

The modern, it looks brand new, machine shuddered to a halt and he scrambled up the broad, one metre wide steel tracks, then he moved along the top of the track and finally up to the control cab mounted on the front of the machine.

Not long after, our remaining young person, was encouraged to join him on the massive machine. She, too, scrambled up the steel track and was encouraged to sit inside the control pod – an operators view of the proceedings.

Whilst they were there, looking at all the controls they saw a multitude of monitors which showed various aspects of the machine and it was clear from what they saw and what the operator was able to communicate that these various monitors would show the angle, tilt, lifting, weight and a myriad of other technical and essential data that would be indispensable for a safe lift… maybe you noted that I said ‘would show’, this is because the operator indicated that these various monitors and sensors had not been ‘calibrated’ and hence they all were “kaput” (his word). He was operating this ginormous machine by his innate skill, his experience and fundamentally, by the seat of his trousers…

Nice to know.

Once again the machine was set into motion, slowly crawling towards some fishing trawlers which previously had been hoisted out of the water and were now sitting dock side for maintenance and repairs.

IMG_2330The operator indicated he was going to pick up and move the fishing trawler on his right and move it into the harbour.

To turn this massive creation, it uses the standard track vehicle technique, either stopping one track and the other continues to move causing the machine to pivot around the stationary track, or, when necessary, one track reverses as the other drives proceeds forward for a faster pivot. At diverse times, he used both methods to reorientate the machine.

There was a small fishing boat on the quayside, and this goliath had to be pivoted to its right to avoid it. Mind you, he could not go too far right as there was a line of parked vehicles there.

He pivoted and continued his trudge down the quayside. Finally around the boat, he pivoted back and straightened his path towards his destination – leaving massive white friction dust from pivoting such a mammoth machine on the concrete.

He came once again to a grinding halt to enable our young people to abandon the cab and they scrambled down the stationary track. They then came over and joined us on the water’s edge to watch the proceedings.

For our young people, the machine was stopped to enable them to climb on and off, but in the course of its travels we witnessed a couple of times young men clamouring on the moving track to chat with or get cigarettes from the operator before disembarking via the still moving tracks.

The operator then began moving forward once again but this time he opened it right up and it was moving along at twice, even thrice it’s initial speed. It was veritably sprinting down the quayside.

Truly, however, it was still slow moving – but such a beast at any speed is a marvel to behold.

He arrived and his prey, the fishing trawler was on his right hand side, the harbour – the watery destination – on his left.

The crane swung over to the right, massive cables were hanging from a rig suspended from the crane. These cables were unlinked and two cables were passed behind the trawler and their matching cables in front. There were people onboard the trawler helping to move the cables to their appropriate positions. The positioning of the cables seem to be selected by the ‘eye-guess’ methodology.

Once the cables were on either side of the fishing trawler, men clamoured underneath the ship to link the cables together, ensuring the linking point was exactly under the keel. The linking device was a massive ‘u’ shaped steel fitting with the open end being closed by fitting a huge pin. This device was to rest directly under the keel and hence they planned to lift the ship, basically from two points under the keel.

It was not easy to wrangle the unwieldily cables into the fittings, and then to manoeuvre the heavy, large pins to close the open ends. There was a considerable amount of time that the men struggled and laboured underneath the trawler and underneath the keel.

All the while this 75 tonne fishing trawler was being supported on some wooden beams beneath the keel and the sides of the ship held in place by eight or ten (per side) round wooden props, leaning against the side of the ship to hold it upright. Friction, it seems, is a powerful force.

In the fullness of time the men succeeded in getting the fittings fitted. The men onboard used ropes to secure the cables in the right place along the ship – then they disembarked.

The crane operator began the lift, monitors of no value, he trusted what he was seeing and his experience.

Tension was applied.

The precise lifting points under the keel had been selected by the ‘eye-guess’ method as well – so as the tension increased it was becoming evident if the correct locations had been used. The trawler lifted a bit, moving slightly forward and back, but, basically remained level.

A bit more lift, and all the supporting props on either side fell away – the massive trawler was now fully airborne. Once free of the supports, it immediately swung backwards towards another trawler on the dockside.

IMG_2337

This trawler too was ashore for maintenance and repairs and was supported in the same manner by resting on beams under its keel and with supports propped up on either side. It was at 90º to the first trawler, and so the back of the airborne trawler was swinging backwards and towards the broadside of the other trawler.

One touch and it was my fear that the trawler would toppled over, and then to probably collide with the trawler parallel to it, which would have toppled and onwards…. There were about five or six trawlers side by side on the quayside…. trawler dominos…

It was close. Well, it looked very close to me. It was a 75 tonne dead weight swinging on the cables – but by talent, efforts, planning or just dumb luck, it refrained from nudging the other trawler.

Whilst it was hanging there I noticed a number of workmen scampering around with paint rollers in their hands. Wherever the ship had been supported by various props for the repairs and maintenance, it could not have been painted. Now the supports had all literally fallen away and here was the only opportunity to paint where the supporting posts had once been – and oh, also painting where the keel had rested on massive wooden beams.

So these men, in their construction ‘flip-flops’, safety ‘hair gel’, busied themselves, scuttling around and under this massive, moving target to complete the paint job. Health and Safety must have been busy elsewhere on this day… for what could possibly go wrong…

Now the ship is lightly swinging in the air and they are getting ready to change its orientation; it is sitting parallel to the water and in order to move it across the quay to harbour waters it must be swung 90º. Meanwhile, the workmen continue to scurry around the underside of the trawler, feverishly painting any unpainted bit, or the bits that were scraped by the cables during the initial lift. They must get right underneath the vessel in order to paint under the keel.

Additionally, there are men, hanging on to ropes fore and aft of the trawler, who, through brunt man-force swung it 90º so now the trawler is parallel to the other trawlers on the dockside.

Slowly, this massive ship is moved across the dock, and to make matters a bit more challenging, it must pass through a narrow opening between the propped up trawlers and a smaller fishing boat resting on the dockside near the water.

To achieve this the crane is swinging as these machines do, on its central ring, but the machine must also be moved, forward and the machine itself must be turned towards the harbour – all while holding the trawler in the air, with men fussing around underneath and others hanging onto ropes to control the orientation of the vessel.

The men holding the rope off the aft of the trawler – the ship is moving aft first towards the water – are running out of quay to stand on and are on the far side, between the moving trawler and the propped up trawlers.

I am wonder what happens next, when they scramble underneath the still moving, swaying trawler, to our side, bringing their rope attached to the aft of the ship with them.

IMG_2355Also at this point I was puzzled as to how they were going to put the trawler into the water – it kind of looked like it was going to go aft in.

I was moreover, curious as to how they would get the cables out from underneath the ship – it was clear, once in the water, no one would go down to release the massive pins.

Then the men holding the aft rope, there were just two men, on the quayside, with the rope to the aft, were straining with all their might, pulling for all they were worth and relentlessly being slowly drawn towards the waters edge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They resolutely held on, in this tug of war; man versus 75 tonne fishing trawler.

Slowly, the back of the trawler began to pivot towards the harbour side, slowly moving to become parallel to the quayside – ultimately the men were victorious.

At the start, the trawler had begun parallel to the harbour but on the far side of the dockside. It had been brought 90º to move across the quayside, and now another 90º to realign it once again, parallel to the harbour side and ready to be deposited in the water.

A space, large enough, well, just large enough, had been cleared of the little fishing boats moored to the harbour wall to receive the trawler. Mind you, the space so created was just able to accommodate the trawler. Indeed, whilst the lowering the trawler was happening, a workman was diligently holding the nearest small fishing boat out of the gap. Slowly the trawler was lowered into the water.

Once in the water, the cables were relaxed and as the tension was removed, people quickly boarded the trawler and began moving the still connected cables along the side of the ship to pass underneath and come out on the aft end. The pins joining the cables would be undone, later, on land, where it would be eminently more feasible.

The trawler was free.

75 tonnes of ship lifted up, painting topped up and swung into the harbour, now back in its proper environment, fully supported by the water and ready to be about it business on the open sea.

For us, the show was over – and what a show it was; talk about dinner time entertainment. Evidently the other trawlers are to be lifted and deposited in the harbour waters – whether on the same day, or later, we didn’t know. For us, what we had seen was sufficient.

This was one ‘fish meal’ that I was more than happy to be part of! Sometimes, it is in the things that we would not normally choose to do that surprise blessings and intriguing situations develop – need to be ready to move our of my comfortable routine from time to time.

As we departed, leaving behind this most powerful and modern of machines we made our way to visit, among other sites, the Monastary of St Simon the Stylite, a ‘saint’ who lived 68 years on top of a pillar in a quest to know God – what a dramatic contrast.

Well, today has been a day.

I know we do not ‘control’ any of our days – we are dependant on so many varied variables, but today has been distinctly different.

My normal routine had already been knocked for six because a man was coming to fit a sump pump in the house (another story why we need this), and I needed to be in attendance and consequently, as my normal morning routine was superseded. This being the case, we arranged for a man who can install central heating systems to come and appraise our flats and produce a quote.

Consequently, I went for my morning constitutional at 08:00 – the time I normally give to practicing the guitar.

Just to complicate things, we had anticipated some visitors arriving on the previous day in the afternoon – but in the event, they actually arrived at 11:30 – er that is 23:30… a time that I call night.

A brother from Diyarbakir, in the east of the country, was shepherding them on their desired tour – they themselves visiting from South Africa.

In spite of arriving late the night before, they were leaving by late morning today – an exceptionally brief visit.

Over breakfast there had been a discussion of the work that the small Christian Fellowship here is involved in with the Syrian refugee field workers. They were interested to learn more, and see a bit of the work. Hence, in my absence, it was decided that I was drive the church vehicle and lead them up the valley to some of the Syrian refugee encampments that we labour amongst.
As I was scheduled to be at the house to ‘attend’ as the man was to fit the sump pump, he was rung and we cancelled the appointment – to be rescheduled for another day.

It was also suggested that rather than having the ‘man’ dig the pit for the sump pump, that I dig a hole 1 meter deep by about 80 cm square before we call the man to come back… Okay…

With these changes in play, we also rang the central heating man and arranged for him to come in the afternoon…

My plans for the afternoon have now been dealt a blow as well; my normal routine had been suspended and now the alternative plan (attending the sump pump man) was superseded.

I climbed into the church’s ten passenger Volkswagen Transporter and began my hour long drive up the valley to where we do our aid distribution…

There were about ten or twelve people in the other van.

On the way up the valley, I was leading, when, unexpectedly the following van overtook me. Now in front, he promptly pulled over to the side of the dual carriageway, stopping in front of a small shop. It seems they wanted to get some refreshments of some sort.

When they were ready, I headed out again – faithfully holding to the 80 kph speed limit. I utterly detest speeding tickets and paying money for, well, nothing really, just a certificate of speed attained.

We passed through the first police check point with no problem. But, further up the road, I was selected to be checked by the Gendarme at their security checkpoint.

I dutifully pulled in and stopped – the other van, not being so selected, carried on. I rolled down my window, greeting the soldier and then turned away to turn off my phone which was playing music to accompany me whilst I drove. The soldier looked in the empty van, looked at this late middle aged, white-bearded foreigner and when I finally turned from my phone, he told me to carry on.

Off I went, rejoining the traffic on the dual carriageway and powered up the valley – holding to the 80 kph speed limit.

Then ahead I spied the other van, moving slowly along on the side of the carriageway. Now the vehicle I’m driving is a rather distinctive black Volkswagen Transporter, so when I over-took them, I ‘assumed’ they would see and recognise me. The driver knows our vehicle.

After overtaking, as I pulled away, I checked my mirror and they seemed to be continuing to drive slowly along the side of the road. I assumed they would speed up.

I carried on… at 80 kph.

When I arrived at the turn-off point – there was still no sign of them – I stopped.

Now, I rant and rave against people using their mobile phones whilst driving; so I had purposed to neither initiate a call whilst driving, nor to answer any incoming calls. Stopped as I was now, I was still loath to ring the other van as they are most likely driving.

So, swallowing this, for me, rather bitter pill, I rang and the first question was “Are you still at the Security Control point?”

“Er, no, I was there very briefly, I am awaiting for you at the turnoff point”.

A few minutes later they roared up, and our convoy, now duly reconstituted, departed, me again leading the way to where the Syrian refugee encampments are situated.

We travelled up to Kırıkhan, and turn off the main road and headed towards the border. The encampment I had selected was not the first, but at a bit of a distance, but it was a good, all-round example of the encampments we deal with. Additionally, there is a real gaggle of children there and the visitors had purchased some sweets to give the children.

We call this encampment ‘The Grove’, not because there are trees in the encampment – there aren’t any – but because there is a grove of trees across the road from the make-shift encampment. This encampment is on a bit of a rise, and now, well into summer, baking hot. As I said, no trees within the encampment, everything is exposed to the unrelenting, scorching sun. Water at this particular encampment is provided by a water bowser which is topped up from time to time.

Sweets were happily received by the children.

After this encampment we swung by another encampment – but this was wholly redundant, and, as one of the visitors commented to me, “They all look alike”, to which he added, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” – let the hearer understand, he was politely declaring ‘No need to show us anymore.’

We powered back to the main road – the other van turning right to carry on up the valley and then back to Diyarbakır. I turned left to return to Antakya.

It had been stressed to me that I needed to be back by 13:00 as the van was required. Today was a deferred time for the team to go to one of the encampments where we do a children’s work – their departure time was slated to be 13:00.

So, in one sense, I was racing the clock. When we departed we had three hours for me to complete the journey, there and back.  I thought this was easily adequate amount of time for the task. However, in fact, it was taking more than three hours to complete.

I did not exceed the speed limit, if I arrive late, I arrive late.

I was patient at all the red traffic lights.

I think I made a record for the number of red traffic lights I encountered on the return journey.

Being impatient at a red traffic light profits me not at all; being patient, however, and remaining calm, blood pressure abiding where it ought to be is both profitable, pleasant and absent of stress.

I had been told that if I was late, then they would take Ö’s vehicle – it would not be the best solution, but it was a viable and a ready solution.

My better-half, T, can monitor where in the world I am as I have ‘shared‘ my location via my phone with her. Hence, I hoped that they would have an idea where I was and, roughly, how long I would be.

Again, I had determined that I would not ring T whilst driving, and I would not answer the phone if it rang.

Driving the speed limit, waiting patiently at all the red lights, I arrived at our home about ten minutes later than their planned departure time.

Happily, my ever-changing location had been monitored; consequently they knew where I was and about when I would arrive.

They had opted to wait.

I didn’t park up; I just stopped in the street in front of our house – which given how narrow our street is, I effectively blocked the road. But I knew they would be departing posthaste.

Personally, I was done in… being diabetic, I can not play loose and free with my meal times. I had grabbed some bites of my sandwich whilst up the valley – only whilst stopped, not whilst driving.

Now at home, I finished my meagre meal.

Immediately after the meal was my first opportunity to practice the guitar this day, but after just ten minutes, the man for the central heating system arrived.

Now, I thought he would come, do his investigation, make his measurements, and calculate the cost all before I would depart for my guitar lesson, which was fully two hours after his arrival.

Indeed, I even entertained notions that I would have time to practice some before the lesson.

The man and his helper came and examined the space we had identified as a potential ‘furnace room’.

It is not ideal, but, well, it is the only space that could be remotely converted into a furnace room.

It took quite a while to determine where the chimney could go and then to decide where it would go. The chimney will begin on the ground floor, pass through a disused stairway which is covered and made into a wee balcony area on the first floor and then pass up through the roof and then, it will pass through our neighbours roof which overhangs ours. All in all, it is proposed to be eleven metres of plastered, cement block chimney, reinforced with angle iron.

Just to make things more interesting, this is on the side of the house that is subject to our neighbours rather disturbing subsidence….

After sorting the furnace room/chimney out, they came into our flat to measure for radiators, decide where they would go and how the various challenges identified could be and ultimately, would be addressed.

Then we went upstairs to the elder’s flat and did the same.

For me, the clear priority is the upstairs flat as my motivation in going to a furnace system was to alleviate the labour and work load of the elder’s wife, E.

In Turkey, if you have a wood/coal fired, pot-bellied stove, it is the lady of the house’s task to operate it (fuel, light, maintain, empty ash) – it is a cultural imperative and, really there are no practical alternatives.

But when it comes to furnaces, however, they are primarily a man’s responsibility – it is a big piece of equipment that needs a man’s touch.

Interestingly, emptying the ash is still the ladies task – but I have been sold on the idea of a wood-pellet furnace which produces very little and very light ash – or so we have been assured. So the labour requirements for the elder’s wife will be greatly diminished – which is the goal.

Then, over a demitasse of strong Turkish coffee, he did his sums.

I, as seems to be my nature, complicated things.

I wanted a sum with the second-hand furnace, a sum with a new furnace, and a sum with the top of the line, fully automatic furnace.

I also wanted a sum calculated without doing the radiators in our lower flat, in an effort to save money.

However, this last request is extremely strange and a rather odd kind of request for Turks, and in the end, it seems, he just ignored it.

We got our prices.

We drank our Turkish coffee.

I buzzed with the effects of the potent caffeine hit.

I had been surreptitiously monitoring E.’s location (she has shared her location on her phone) and I knew they were well on their way back from the children’s work.

Before we were done, she arrived, and so, we began explaining everything we had determined, what could be done and what we suggest should be done – if we decide to have a system installed.

Then the elder, H, arrived from his secular job.

So, we began explaining everything to him.

It was in the midst of rehearsing all the salient facts, problems, compromises and solutions that my guitar teacher rang, wondering where on earth I was… because I clearly was not at my lesson…

Time had totally escaped me.

Profuse apologies, following profuse apologies… things really are not going according to any plan that I am part of today.

In the end we finished all our explainations.

We need to inform the central heating man by the morrow if we want to install any system and especially if we desire the second-hand furnace.

Today, nothing went to plan and I was bounced from pillar to post by various events…

But, life is like that… we constantly need to respond to events, assess, appraise, decide what we can and should do in the circumstance and all the while, to be true to who we are and our principles.

I was out on my normal constitutional when I received a phone call that required me to return home. It wasn’t urgent or negative, just something I had with me that was required there and then.  It was a time sensitive need.

So I agreed that I would ‘power walk’ home – to arrive with the least delay. I often walk ‘quickly’ and this was just an impressive way to say that I wouldn’t dawdle, but I would walk with purpose and as quickly as a man of age and state can manage.

Normally, I try and walk a minimum of 10,000 paces a day – that is roughly 7 kilometres or approximately 4 ½ miles. Currently I’m at 75 contiguous days of hitting the target and basically, I have been hitting the target for the bulk of a year or so…the odd few days here and there where I have missed it.

So I set off at a quick but not murderous pace.

There weren’t many people about, so I basically had the footpath to myself. Hence, I applied myself to increasing my pace to my quickest rate.

Powering down the boardwalk, ahead of me, I saw a family, some ladies and children coming up the footpath and filling it from side to side. In order not to inconvenience them, nor slacken my pace, I opted to pass to my left, off the footpath where I would bypass them by utilising the verge.  The verge consists of some grass, some bedding areas with no plantings and some trees and the odd light standard.  It is rather narrow, separating the boardwalk from the roadway.

Many times previously, in like situations , I had performed this manoeuvre  and so I was expecting to power on by and loosing little momentum on my journey home.

Except things didn’t go exactly to plan.

Now I do not know the precise sequence of events, but at some point I must have tripped, or lost my footing, or made some other elemental, basic error.

The first that I knew that something was amiss was only as I was somewhat airborne and going down with no hope of stopping it.  

Out flew my hands to protect me as I plummeted. There didn’t seem to be anything else that I could do.

Oh, and I was tumbling off, or was it over, the verge and into the roadway.

Now, generally speaking, this is an extremely busy little road and drivers, when an opportunity presents itself, will power down the roadway with seemingly reckless abandon.  

It was, in fact, on this very road, just two years prior I was witness to a young girl being bowled over by an inattentive motorcyclist. The girl was wholly up-ended and the motorcyclist and his travelling companion were left skidding down the road independent of their motorcycle which was also skidding down the road.

Now, here I was, flying into the same roadway. Mind you, it was without the aid of a motorcycle, but it still was not the most desirable of destinations to be heading towards.

As with all these things, it happened incredibly quickly, literally, in the twinkling of an eye.

I’m down.

Face first.

When I hit, my left side took the brunt of the fall and my outstretched hands absorbed some of the violence of the impact. I was aware that my head did not come in contact with the road surface. My 65 kilos had come pell-mell from an upright, forward moving state to a prone and utterly stopped state in under a second or two at the most.

Things have happened rather unexpectedly and rather abruptly.

I’m lying there, gathering my thoughts, doing a quick check to see what is speaking the loudest to me, my left leg, hands, elbow, wrist… the list seems to be growing…I was generally occupied in taking stock.

I perceived that nothing was broken.

Oh, and I noted that there was no traffic this day – the road is strangely lacking its normal frenetic masses of traffic. Strange for a Saturday, or, better put, thankfully strange for a Saturday.

Hence, I haven’t been run over.

At the time, I would have preferred to lie there on the floor for a bit, just to collect myself.

But, virtually instantly, people have rushed to my aid. There is a lady in her twenties, a young lad of about ten or twelve – asking if I was alright. There was a middle aged council employee asking the same thing. Others were there, but my mind was somewhat preoccupied and my vision rather narrow. Many hands were outstretched to aid me to my feet.

I couldn’t say no to the assistance. I may have wished to lie there a bit longer and gather myself, but aid to pull me up, well that was not to be neglected. I appreciated the hands pulling me up. It would have been a slower and I dare say, a more painful experience, if I had attempted it on my own.

I thanked my helpers – there was a small crowd around me now.

Of course I was rather embarrassed. There was no real reason for my tumble. I was simply rushing. I was walking too fast and not being careful enough. No excuses.

Nevertheless, there was no end of people asking after me, offering assistance and ensuring I was okay.

I returned to the footpath and turned my steps, once again, towards home. I still needed to get there and I still needed to be there sooner rather than later – the basic equation on why I was heading home had not changed. It was a time sensitive situation.

My left leg was speaking to me in several places, both my palms were distressed, my right elbow was smarting, and my left wrist had things to say, but everything was functioning, and so I headed off, but at a rather diminished rate.

I still arrived home in good time – naturally, no record had been set. I surrendered the item that was in my possession and made my way into our home. My left wrist is reluctant to give me support, my left leg, is battered, banged and skinned in multiple places, but I am on the mend. No serious damage has been done.

But I think it is important to note that with all the violence that is happening in our world, with people demonising a whole society, culture and religion – I would like to point out that young and old, male and female, workmen and housewives all stopped what they were doing, they ceased going about on their own business and offered me, a complete and utter stranger aid and comfort without pause or hesitation. I know if I had needed water, it would have been procured. If I had needed other aid, it would have been provided.

Rarely in life are things black and white. Rarely are generalisations accurate for the individual. Rarely are caricatures even remotely helpful. Rarely can we extrapolate from the few and apply to the many and have anything remotely resembling reality or something that is in some way helpful – except maybe in reinforcing preconceived prejudices and biases.

All who were in the vicinity of my tumble, Sunni or Alevi, Turk or Syrian, (Muslims all) came to my aid, expressing concern and care and willing to do whatever was necessary for me in my time of need. All for a complete stranger.

(written August 2008)

Life in our modern world is kind of amazing…

Map of AntakyaOn Tuesday we were in Antakya, located near the bottom of a ‘pan handle’ in the south and east of Turkey, not far from the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and boxed in by Syria on two sides.  That day we flew the 1,100 kilometres to Istanbul as we had some essential tasks to accomplish there.  Just four days later, on Saturday and after driving for two relatively long days, we were back in Antakya.

A journey that not that long ago would have been either unimaginable or simply impossible.  Today, such a journey is not even remotely noteworthy.

In this case, our short turn around was due to some responsibilities we had here in Antakya, and so, once our business in Istanbul was concluded, we hurried back.

Whilst we were in Istanbul one of our tasks was to bring our car down to Antakya.  Now, as you do when contemplating long journey in a significantly less than new automobile, I took the car to a Fiat service centre and had it serviced and checked over.

They found a fuel leak (!) which was fixed – which was good.  They adjusted various things and gave everything a thorough going over.  In process of doing that, they checked the brakes and adjusted the hand brake.   All good.

As we departed Istanbul, we were comforted with the thought that everything should be ‘top notch’ and ready for the rigours of the trek before us.

The goal of the first day out of Istanbul was to drive a little over half way to Antakya.  Our resting place was to be the city of Aksaray on the vast high interior Anatolian plateau.

For the first four and a half hours of that initial journey, we moved along rather briskly at 120 kph.  The motorway is both brand new and ultra modern – utilising tunnels and concrete via-ducts to go where previously no road could ever conceivably go.  The remaining two and a half hours of the first days travel were accomplished at a more sedate 90 kph as the roadway whilst being a good quality dual carriage way was not classified as a motorway and consequently, had a lower speed limit posted.  Frequent police radar controls helped to dampen most drivers desire to drive at a speed that logic dictated would have been reasonable and safe on that road.

The Anatolian plain is a vast, well, plain.  On the first leg on the plateau, after the capital city Ankara, there are some lumps and bumps, but, it  progressively becomes relatively flat.  The one noteworthy feature, about 45 minutes before we arrive at Aksaray is the vast ‘salt lake’.  It is always fascinating to observe the broad white levels as the water has receded over the course of the summer.  The observer is left blinking in the harsh white reflected light from the lake bed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the same time, it is always intriguing to see the salt being harvested by big machines out on the lake.  Sometimes they are at a distance where they are glimmering like distant mirages on the lake.

So far, the trip has progressed exactly as it has the many times in the past that we have covered this terrain.

We lodged the night in Aksaray and planned to head off reasonably early for the final leg of our journey.  The planned day’s travel encompassed travelling across the remainder of the plain, into the lofty coastal Toros mountain range, passing through the ancient and extremely narrow ‘Cilician Gates’ and then dropping down to sea level and once on the other side, to follow the Mediterranean around to ancient Alexandretta, modern name Iskenderun, before climbing the Amanus mountain range where, at the summit, we would be crossing over the ancient ‘Syrian Gates’ pass, to finally drop down to the broad valley leading to Antakya.

We commenced the journey at a reasonable time.  We estimated the travel time from Aksaray to Antakya to be about five hours.  It would not be too strenuous.

The first hour is rather straight forward as you drive straight across the plateau aimed squarely at the mountains.  There are no real curves nor hills to break up the monotony.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the view fascinating, the soaring heights of an apparently dormant volcano soaring high in the sky and dominating the skyline on our left.  On the right hand side, the plain itself is amply dotted with strange conical hills, looking to be covered in scree.  I really enjoy viewing those unique rounded hills and would love to know how they came to be – to any geologist reading this, I would profoundly grateful to be enlightened.

Even so, I must confess, it is a rather monotonous drive.  The course of the road is a fundamentally straight line from Aksaray to the Toros mountains.  In 2008, the majority of the road had been upgraded to a dual carriage, but the speed limit remained at the single road level and so we were plodding along at just 90 kph.   That is harder to maintain on a flat, straight road where you can clearly see where you are going for the next hour…

Again, in 2008, the dual carriage did not extend the whole way, and the ultra modern motorway – with its prodigious use of tunnels and concrete viaducts carving a new path through the mountains through a formerly impassible valley was then just a tantalising mirage on the horizon.  We came to the end of the dual carriageway section and entered a long stretch of the old two way road. Two Lane Road Anatolian Plateau

So, until we rejoin the motorway, on the opposite side of the mountains, we commenced playing the ‘passing game’.

“Can I… should I… possibleimpossible… silly… wise… suicidal…”

What a fun game to play.

I’m only doing 90 kph, but the heavily laden lorries are trudging along at a slower rate than that, hence even I must be an active participant in the passing game.

Inevitably, in the normal course of things, I came up behind a groaning lorry belching black smoke as it was expending all its efforts to plod along.  I am travelling faster than the lorry, and as I drew near the solid obstruction of the rear of the lorry, I went to apply the brakes on our wee Fiat Uno.

It was, however, on applying moderate pressure on the pedal, that it disappeared, dropping straight to the floor.  It was like there was absolutely nothing there.  My speed remained unchanged – we continued to close on the imposing bulk of the heavily burdened lorry.

The car did not slow, but, in truth, my heart rate did increase rather dramatically at this point.

This is not a dual carriage way – I am immediately aware that I have four limited choices:  slow down (preferred option – brakes performing normally), or, failing that, hope that it is clear to pass (which is not likely), or, failing that, use the lorries back end as a brake (definitely not my desired choice), oh, there was always the options that I could just drive off the road and avoid hitting the lorry (but hitting whatever is off to the side of the road and discovering all the delights of bumping, banging and who knows what’s lying hidden in the wastes of that somewhat desolate plain).

Generally, I am a conscientious driver, paying attention and trying to be ‘full-time’ focused on driving.  But now, with my brake pedal sedately resting flat on the floor, my driving awareness had leaped up a gear…

The brake pedal lying passively on the floor tends to do that to you.

Thankfully, on my vigorous, urgent, repeated, frantic pumping of the brake pedal, some pressure returned bringing some feeling to the pedal.  It was no longer the same limp limb passively lying prostrate on the floor and the car began slowing – but not as it should.

Not at all as it should….

Our meeting with the posterior aspect of the lumbering lorry was hence postponed. 

Thankfully.

And thankfully, I did not need to attempt to pass, nor to discover what was lying out in the plain.

To say this experience was disconcerting is a bit of an understatement.

It is also needless to say that now my driving had taken on a new, urgency, an intense intensity.  I applied a whole new level of caution – my mind was actively engaged in pondering through the ramifications of ‘what do you do if the brakes fully fail…..’.

This is a rather lonely stretch of road – not much happens out there other than the odd shepherd and his flock of sheep or goats.  Nevertheless, necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I am on active look out, scanning for an unlikely repair shop.

2007-03-07 Istanbul-Antioch DSCF9626 Taurus mtns adjusted snow
Correct bit of road, wrong time of year…

Because this is not our first time down this road, I anticipated the possibility of a repair shop at the top of the long hill that was looming in the distance ahead of us.

I pressed on across the plain, contemplating the implications of entering the mountains, going up the hill, cresting and beginning the descent on the opposite side.  My mind was fully occupied with these thoughts and the myriad of implications.

Don’t get me wrong, the brakes were now working – sort of, after a fashion.  But they were really, really soft.  Consistently, on first application, there would be nothing or next to nothing, but on pumping, some braking would grudgingly return.

My driving reflected this reality being clearly in the forefront of my mind.  Where possible, slow down ‘naturally’ by lessening the petrol…

We drew up and crested the long hill rising up from the plain, and before the long, narrow, twisting and winding descent to sea level on the opposite side on the mountains, we came to the little village of Ulukışla.

I  wonder what it must be like to live in a place whose name means: ‘With Great Winter’.  Thankfully, this was not winter.

Ulukışla is a shunting yard for the railway as they prepare trains for the descent and reorganise the trains that have made the laborious climb up from the coast.  There is really not much else in the village.

We drive through the village, slowly, and it is only as, with hope waning and we are passing out the other side that I see a row of vehicle repair shops.

I immediately turn in.

Now, T. sitting beside me is puzzled and wondering why as we have never, ever, gone into Ulukışla before.  It is not a very attractive village – completely run down, dumpy and dirty.  It is clearly a place that never had a ‘golden age’ – it has always been what it is…

Confession time: the truth be told, I had not pointed out the deficiency with the brakes to her, feeling there was no point in causing undue worry.

But, now, well, the cat is out of the bag.

To make matters more, uh, interesting, this day was the Zafer Bayram – or Victory Day holiday, commemorating victory in the War of Independence.  So it is a high and important holiday.  Most everything is closed for the holiday.

As I carefully drive past the various workshops and repair shops I notice that many of the shops are indeed closed (as you would expect) but a few are surprisingly open, which is good.  But most of them are Auto-Electric shops, which is of no aid to me as I do not think my problem is electrical.

I pull in to one promising looking repair shop, but, alas, no one seems about.

We depart that shop and meander along to another, where there is a chap.

I pull the car in and explain the problem.

He replied by saying that he can only adjust the brake shoes if that is the problem, but, because of the holiday, he can not get replacement parts in the village.  Adjustment he can do, but if something is broken…

His suggestion to me was that we carry on to a bigger town and have it looked at there.  This truly is not what I want to hear.  The notion of carrying on down through the mountains, on a very narrow, windy, congested two lane road crowded with a prodigious numbers of slow-moving lorries and all the while with questionable, queasy brakes was not something that I truly wished to undertake or experience.

But before he sends us off, he says he will have a little look around, check the brake fluid and such.  He then starts up the car, backs up and hits the brakes.

He gingerly drives back in and says he will take a look at it.

It is at this juncture that he feels the various hub caps and discoveries that the rear left wheel is extremely hot – in fact it was too hot to touch.

So we spent the next half hour waiting for it to cool enough for him to begin to investigate what is happening.

As we were not prepared for this degree of roadside expenses, I asked and learned where the nearest bank was.  T. was then dispatched to go off to the ATM and get some cash – we had only about 20 between us.  Even in Turkey, this was only enough, in 2008 for a simple meal – today, it will only stretch to a couple cups of coffee.

When things were cool enough to handle, he removes the tyre, the brake drum and it all seemed okay (I guess).  He then pulls the bearing and greases and re-fits it.

Then he re-adjusts the hand brake.

Finally, he checks the other side which he determines is good.

In the end, the only explanation he could suggest was that the hand brake was tightened a wee bit too much (in Istanbul) which could result in there being a bit of contact between the brake shoes and drum.  This friction could result in the drums running hot.  When things get hot, they,  well, expand and get larger and hence things would naturally get tighter and therefore run hotter which in turn…. a vicious, self sustaining circle.

Only much later did I consider that maybe, that morning in setting off, I failed to release the hand brake fully.  I released it to be sure, but, if it wasn’t 100% released, then, as it had been tightly adjusted, this could have been sufficient to engage a bit of friction, which ultimately was the cause of my, er, excitement on the road.  Hmm….

Anyway, what he said at the time seemed a reasonable and plausible explanation, which also gave a degree of confidence to head out into the mountainous roads and heavy traffic with far less trepidation.

Therefore, as a result of waiting for about an hour and all the work, dismantling, reassembling, greasing and adjusting that he had completed, the brakes were back to feeling normal.

The charge for his labours, on this high holiday – 20.

As I drove away, I experienced how utterly delightful it is, when you put your foot on the brake pedal and it virgoriously resists you.  How pleasant when it does not immediately flee to the floor.  How truly joyous that on the application of the brake pedal, the automobile begins to slow in accordance with the amount of pressure applied to the now normally resistant brake pedal.

How often I have leapt into the car, fired it up and pelted off without giving even a moments thought as to the stopping exercise.  It is great when the car thunders into life and propels me down the roadway – but it is equally, actually more important, for me to be able to bring it to a safe stop when required.

It seems, in life, it is all too easy that some essential, but boring, banal elements can quietly be taken for granted – commonly, we only notice them when they cease to be.

A challenge then, is to be alive to all aspects of life, appreciating and being thankful for those ‘mundane’ and yet essential aspects.

(written May 2008)

If it seemed like we had just arrived in Antakya it was because, well, we had.

We had been in Antakya for just three weeks and already we were back on the 1,000 kilometre trek, heading north to Istanbul. I had seriously considered taking the train back, but as we had a video shoot planned in Antakya in June, and as a consequence, I needed to bring lights, and our home-made Teleprompter and other bits of video kit back with me. Practically speaking, we had no choice but the car.

It was not that long ago that I would have completed a trip like this in a single day – it is, after all only a 13½ hour drive. However, it seems that time, and dare I say the reality and effects of diabetes, have taken their toll on my stamina and physical resources. As a result, we now split the journey over two days. The plan is the first day, when we are freshest, will be the longer day and the second, when the freshness has grown a bit stale, will be the shorter day. That is the theory at least…

We commence the journey on a dual-carriageway for the hour long drive from Antakya to Iskenderun, crossing over the Amanus mountains via the only pass in this part of the mountain range. This pass was known in ancient times as the ‘Syrian Gates’.

Having successfully traversed the pass, travelling through the wee village of Belen and passing under the shadow of an old Church bell tower – the last remnant of the former Christian presence in the village – we then join the motorway. This is a six lane modern motorway whereby the landscape has been tamed and now the roadway consists of gentle inclines and smooth curves.

For the next hour we travel up the plain between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, past the battlefield where Alexander the Great with his much smaller army of Greeks and Macedonians decisively defeated Darius III, King of Persia.  This spelt the end of the mighty Persian Empire and the dawning of Greek ascendancy under Alexander.

The motorway turns westward at the end of the bay and then strikes across the fertile Çukurova plain, amidst vast crops of cotton.
After another hour and a bit, we approached and passed through Turkeys fourth largest city,  Adana.  This high rise city lies straddling the Seyhan River.

The motorway crosses the river just north of the ancient, 13 arch, Roman stone bridge. In the beginning, when this bridge was first constructed, it consisted of 21 arches, but over the nearly two thousands years it has stood over the river, the banks have been stabilised and the width of the river reduced.  Consequently the over -all length of the bridge has been reduced.

It is remarkable that until recent times this was the single main crossing point in the city.  Even as late as the early 1980’s  the bridge was open to motorised traffic, cars, buses, lorries, and well overloaded lorries  – those Romans knew how to build.

Passing through Adana at speed, it was now in our rearview mirror as we carried on towards Tarsus, another half hour, forty-five minutes down the road.  Tarsus was the birthplace of the apostle Paul.

Just prior to Tarsus we turned  90º to the right and proceeded north, paralleling the course of the ancient Roman road.

Travelling at motorway speeds it is not long before the plain was left behind us and we entered the foothills, forging forward on our way towards the Taurus mountains.

Motorways are truly a marvel; bridging, spanning and, at times, removing vast amounts of mountain to enable a high speed motorway to pass.

Remarkably quickly we are up into the mountains, travelling up an ever-narrowing valley until the valley narrows to a point where the left and right mountain sides are almost touching and the minuscule passage between is the bed of a river which occupies all the real estate at the bottom.

This is the famous Cilician Gates, one of the few passes through this coastal mountain range. Once there was a Roman road that traversed this narrow valley and through the profoundly narrow pass. It was upon this ancient way which the apostle Paul would have trudged on his second journey.

When the season is right, the river would dominate the pass as a raging torrent.

Today, the massive stone mountain sides that descend to the bottom of the pass have been blasted and reduced, making the narrow pass wider.  Then a concrete span has been built from edge to edge and above the river.  It is upon this newly created space, just wide enough to to carry the six lanes motorway.

The motorway continues its’ climb through the valley at a challenging incline, our wee Fiat Uno straining to maintain a reasonable climbing speed.

Finally we complete the passage through the Cilician Gates. We crest the top of the pass and immediately begin dropping down the opposite side towards a valley below.  This new valley winds its way up through the high mountains that are now surrounding us.

When we made this passage in 2008, following our decent into the valley, the motorway came to a sudden, complete and abrupt end. This main transportation link between the west of Turkey, the major cities and the fertile region to the south and east, once again reverting back to a simple, two lane roadway.

In 2008, we were somewhat tormented as we could see that the motorway, all six lanes of it, were being pushed, thrust and blasted forward into and through the mountains. The new motorway paralleled us for a while, massive concrete via-ducts soaring over the raging stream in the bottom of the valley – the only way that you could create new space for the roadway.

To complete our passage through these spectacular mountains, the old road turned left up the old, passable valley whilst the new section of the motorway turned right up a different, and fully impassible valley (that is, until modern building techniques and a massive amount of determination was thrown at it).  But with the liberal application of tunnel after tunnel connected by vast concrete via-ducts to join up the tunnels and spanning the wild stream which owns the bottom of the valley, this new motorway would be possible… but not on that day…

We carried on with a two lane road winding its way through narrow valleys. Impressive mountains rising all around us as we travelled, on a constant, steep incline up through the mountains towards the vast interior plateaux.

The next 40 or more kilometres is a mixture of breath-taking scenery and occasionally, breath-taking driving as the two lane road is clogged with heavily laden lorries slowly trudging up the mountain passes.

We fell in behind a smaller lorry and were slowly proceeding up the valley when we happened upon a straight section of road. In the mountains, these are rarities and only when traffic allows, do they present the only hope you have of passing over-burdened transport lorries labouring up the inclines. Behind the lorries, your best speed is set by the capabilities of and state of the lorries, but, if you can get by the lorry, then you may be able to travel closer to the posted speed limit of 90 kph. Otherwise, the passage will be dictated by the slowest crawl of the lorries. Additionally, we will be treated to breathing in the vast clouds a pitch-black exhaust that they are continuously belching out.

I took a quick peek and the road was clear, so I indicated and moved into the on-coming lane to overtake. However, as I manuoevered, simultaneously the lorry in front of me did likewise.

It seems there was an even slower lorry struggling up the road in front of him. Now, instead of a smooth acceleration to overtake the lorry, I am reduced to the speed of the lorry in front and to its rather limited ability to increase speed.

After a ponderous start, the lorry abandons his attempt, slowly slows and pulls back in. Before me the reduced length of the straight section of road continues for a distance, but now, being in the opposite lane as I am, I have a clear view of the challenge and my eyes take in the fact that there are actually three slow moving lorries, hunkered down and plodding up the hill. It is a moment when you have to make a split-second decision.

The lorries are tightly packed together, each one following the one in front with the most minimal space between.

The decision, made in the twinkling of an eye, is to press on and pass all three.

As I down shift, our little Uno does its rather feeble impression of a race car, the engine noise increases as does our speed – the engine noise increase is greater than our speed increase. The engine sounds like we are flying – the speedometer indicates that our increase in speed will not make it into any record book.

In these seconds T.’s telephone rings and I become aware that the road markings have changed from ‘passing allowed’, to ‘passing not permitted’.

However, I am committed, we are in the act of passing.

We are past the first lorry and abreast of the second with the third to go; our speed is increasing and the engine, roaring , throbbing and straining with all its diminished might, is giving it all it has.

Then ahead, at the bend, I see a car round the bend and coming in our direction.

I am not mathematically inclined. I do basic maths, er, basically. And yet in this situation, my mind, at some unconscious, subconscious level is calculating the distance yet to travel, my speed, my rate of increase in speed, the speed of the vehicle I am passing, the speed of the on-coming car and the distance left between us and him. Calculating all of this data, doing an incredible amount of assessment and evaluation (not me consciously but, automatically, somewhere deep in my mind),  the conclusion comes to my conscious mind: “hold your course”.

I don’t know how all those calculations have been made. I do not know the math or the trigonometry or whatever other math is required to complete this complex task and couldn’t do with my conscious mind as I have never learned that math.

But I trust the result of the calculation. I don’t know how it has been done, but I trust it and act on it.

The accelerator can not be depressed any further – it is already on the floor. The wee Uno is giving its’ all.  There is nothing left in reserve, nothing more to call upon.

The decision has been made, we are now passengers as events unfold, literally, before us.

The frenetic roaring of the engine fills our ears, I hear T. on the phone saying “No, I’m not driving…” – the person on the other end would have been reasonably alarmed if she had been.

There is a palpable tension in the car.

“Hold the course” – the calculations have been made, the speed and distance are all still within acceptable limits.

Somewhere, deep in my mind, the calculations are being continuously updated and checked.

There is no need to panic, yet. There is no need for draconian, emergency measures, at this point…

I breast the third lorry, space, time and distance remain… just. I indicate and as soon as we fully clear the last lorry we return to our designated side of the road, shift gears and the engine reverts from its maniacal raging to its normal din.

We traverse the last kilometres of the two lane road section and as we descend onto the vast interior plain of Anatolia the road reverts once again, to a four lane dual carriageway.

This interior plateau is a vast plain dotted here and there with proud mounds, often still covered in scree – the remnants of the last volcanic eruptions some time in the very distant past.

Our mid-trip destination is a town an hours’ drive across the plain. The town is built at the foot of a massive volcano – extinct I trust. This mountain soars into the sky, dominating the plain and seen from a great distance.

The road itself stretches off to the horizon, straight as a die with no wiggle or curve, just a straight line leading all the way to the end of sight.

In spite of it being a dual carriageway and basically dead flat and straight as an arrow, the speed limit remains frustratingly posted at 90 kph. Driving on this plain is easy driving – but, from a driver’s point of view, rather boring.

Traffic is light, and anything that we do encounter that requires overtaking, well,  is the antithesis of our experience in the mountains and the two lane road. Overtaking is a doddle as we have our own, dedicated, overtaking lane.

This last hours’ drive before we stop and rest for the night is neither exciting nor challenging. The task is dead simple, hold a steady speed and hold a steady course. There are no hills, no curves, no movement to break the monotony.

Even with the lack of challenge, as a driver, you are always scanning ahead for potential risks, and ahead I see a rare side road that will soon intersect with our dual carriageway. On the side road, coming straight towards our road is a rather large blue tipper lorry.

He is barrelling towards the dual carriageway with speed and determination – one could almost say with ‘reckless abandon’.

Once again, sub-consciously, a calculation is being done; our speed versus his speed, our distance to the ‘meeting point’ and his distance to the ‘meeting point’, the distance by which if he hasn’t stopped (as he is incumbent to do), we will have had to stop…

Now, Turkish drivers rarely slow down before they have to. Possibly in the West, some drivers may let off the fuel feed and allow the vehicle to begin to slow naturally before having to apply the brakes, but not so here.

We are advancing at 90 kph – holding our course, he is approaching at what I would estimate to be the same speed. The distances are closing rather sharply and he is showing absolutely no signs whatsoever of relenting.

It appears as if he is claiming right-of-way.

Somewhere deep within my brain the calculations have been made and continuously updated, and now the word comes down “Do NOT hold your course”.

This, by interpretation means “STOP”.

I vigorously apply the brakes and quickly downshift and our wee Uno begins to slow.

It is at this juncture that the large blue lorry must have become aware that he was approaching the dual carriageway, that he didn’t have the right-of-way and that it was incumbent on him to stop.
The lorry was also now in sudden stop mode.

Quite a sight actually, seeing this rather large vehicle decelerating so.

He stopped. We slowed. We passed one another.

At one time it was appropriate to “hold the course” and at another the message was “do NOT hold the course” – both times as the result of complex, subconscious calculations. These calculations were not performed by my conscious mind; I was not party to the various deliberations and evaluations – all was done silently, at a subconscious level with only the result being sent to my conscious mind. And yet I trusted the result implicitly.

Different situations, different calculations and clearly, there was and is no easy rule or simplistic determination to be applied in all situations.

This could be construed as a microcosm of life.

As we travel through life, various events adorn, intrude and otherwise encroach on our path. Some of these are planned, some are welcomed and many, well, they just happen, intrude and ‘are’. Indeed, some are extremely unwelcome and yet, there they are.

As we manoeuvre through our life, encountering and dealing with these events, the planned and many that, well, that just intrude, we seek the best way forward, the best choice. This can be fraught with pitfalls and dangers – the right choice can mean life and the wrong choice…

As one who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, to guide and lead and, well, be ‘Lord’ of my life, yes, I use the mind that God has given, I apply logic, I reason, but now, in addition, I have access to the leading of the ‘Spirit of God’. Now, I can listen to the ‘still small voice of God’. In this way, in addition to my logic, in addition to my reasoning, both which are God-given, I can listen for the voice of God and can learn when to ‘hold the course’ and when ‘not to’.

Logic is good. Reasoning is essential. God does not call us to live illogically – He, after all, gave us reasoning and logic and gave them to us to be used.

However, to successfully engage with, respond to and overcome the multitude of challenges that daily crop up in life, it is essential that as I trust the unseen and subconscious reasoning and calculations done in my subconscious mind and to also trust the ‘unseen’ and yet more trustworthy than all my logic and all my reasoning, the ‘still small voice of God’.

May God continually give me ears that hear what the Spirit is saying.

(written September 2002)

The stories recorded in this blog began when this phase of our personal saga commenced in September 2002 with our arrival and settling into life in Selçuk, Turkey.

Ah, Selçuk, the modern descendant of the ancient city of Ephesus – the magnificant fourth city of the Roman Empire, home of one of the Wonders of the ancient world. The ruins, which are one of the most extensively excavated archaeological sites in Turkey, are a vast complex with streets, forums, homes, baths, theatre, gymnasiums, Odeon and brothels exposed, cleaned, persevered and now on public display. These outstanding ruins – the results of over 150 years of archaeological excavation, lie just outside of the modern locale known as Selçuk.

Our flight from the UK was too short for jet-lag, and yet for the first few days we were in a bit of a daze as we wandered the lanes and byways of Selçuk.

Our daze, was it caused by the unfamiliar sight of so much sun? Or maybe the heat which was so much hotter than we were used to in the United Kingdom? Maybe it was moving from a large town – and working in a very large city (London) – to a small Turkish town with a population of 23,000.

Oh, did I say “town”, maybe large village would be a more accurate description of Selçuk, for it had more of a village atmosphere and village pace than that of a town.

After more than twenty years since we first went overseas, we were back in Turkey.

August was a chaotic amalgamation of disparate activities and emotions. We were packing and preparing to go, still involved in the Sunday meeting and other activities as well as the annual Turkish Family Camp that we ran every August and at the same time breaking ties with a work and with people that have been so much of our lives for the previous eleven years.

On our first Sunday in Selçuk the weather was sunny and warm. We stepped out of the flat and as always, we were dazzled by the brilliance of the sunshine, our hands snapping up to cover our eyes.  As we initially staggered about, I rapidly readjusted my hat to provide some relief from the shock caused by the intensity of the light. We turned left onto the street for the short walk to the Church.

“To the ‘Church’”, – my how things have changed in Turkey – while some twenty years prior there were so few Protestants and Protestant ‘churches’ in Turkey that if you had said “none”, no one would seriously argue – using the most generous of definitions, there were maybe five fellowships in the whole country. In fact, in 1981 there were about 44 million souls living in Turkey and only 40 believers from a Muslim background in the whole country.

Back to the our story (2002); we walked up the quiet cobbled streets past a few children happily playing with a ball and then past the little kiosk where the local Council sells freshly baked bread – very reasonably priced and exceedingly tasty. At this hour there were still people coming and getting their morning bread – it was nearly 11:00.

Sunday mornings start slowly here.

We came to the little mosque by the main road and as we crossed the road I looked ahead, the church building stands on a corner not more than a hundred metres from the main road, up a side road, and I noticed a black stain on one of the window frames.

“Strange”, I thought to myself “that is some bad mould on that window, I hadn’t noticed that before – there must be some water leakage”.

You see, in England it is not uncommon to see black mould, especially around windows. Rain, damp and humidity is the norm in the UK resulting in mould, moss and everything green or black adorning many if not most surfaces.

As we neared the front door it then became obvious. This was not black mould – actually highly unlikely given the heat and long dry summer that is common in this part of the world. The reality is that someone, on that lazy Sunday morning had risen earlier than most to throw tar at the two Church signs. They were fairly poor shots in fact, as attested by the tar on the window frame, missing most of the one sign. On the other sign, the logo was obliterated, but the name of the Church and the fact that it was a Church was virtually unscathed.

What was truly ironic was that this action was most likely intended, so I presume, to intimidate and frighten the believers. But on that Sunday there were two visiting groups, one, a group of Turkish Christians doing a tour of the places in Turkey where the Apostle Paul visited and the other, a group of believers from Moldavia.

The room was full, extra chairs being required, the visiting Turkish group took the meeting, leading the worship and with several sharing; and it was an exciting and encouraging time for all. We prayed for those who threw the tar as scripture says to pray for them and to forgive them.

It seems, our re-introduction to Turkey had commenced…

A few days later, I was sitting in a friend’s car in town. The car was stopped by the side of the road and we were chatting with someone when the car lurched side to side. It did this twice, two rather definitive, almost violent lurchings. The driver looked over his shoulder, did someone bump us? He didn’t see anything nor did I. I, at least, assumed that somebody must have bounced the car for a laugh.

On my return home T. reported that as she sat at the kitchen table the rather large, 19 litre water bottle began to move, as did the wall.

The wall?!?

It didn’t last long and she didn’t know what to think of it.

Hmm, car bounces, no apparent cause, water bottle dances – the wall moves – not normal, usual occurrences for us, I wonder?

We checked the news and sure enough, there had been an earthquake with its epicentre in the Aegean sea just off the coast from where we were. It registered at 5.4 on the Richter scale. It seems that 5.4 on the Richter is sufficient to lurch cars, dance large water bottles and move walls…

Our re-introduction, included a reminder that Turkey is a very active earthquake zone.

As we begin the process of adapting to living once again in Turkey, and in a new town and in a new flat, I discovered, we have a pet!

Well, that may not be totally true.

Ever since we lived in Adana in the south of Turkey, we have been aware of these, uh, delightful creatures. Not harmful, so I am assured, and actually beneficial – or so it is said. Our flat is the proud residence of a wee lizard.

They reportedly eat insects (good) maybe even mosquitoes (great). So we co-exist. My only fear is his ‘defence mechanism’ seems to be to freeze and by not moving, it would appear to believe, become invisible to me, as if I am hunting it. However, if I get up in the middle of the night – which is not unlikely as I grow more mature in years – it is then that I truly can not see anything, whether he freezes or not, I can not see anything. So, freezing, staying in one place and not moving may not be the best defence in the world. The facts being I am not hunting him and I literally can not see him and at the end of the day, or the middle of the night for that matter, I really do not want to inadvertently stomp on him.

We have chosen to co-exist.

In typical Turkish fashion, the flat is finished to a high standard. It has ceramic tiles on all the floors. In winter, area rugs are laid out for warmth – in summer said rugs are put away allowing the bare tiles to help cool the flat.

And in all seasons, this provides an easy to clean surface. The tiles themselves are a light white grey pattern which is light and cheery.

The kitchen and bathroom have ceramic tiles on the walls, floor to ceiling. You have a reassuring feeling of cleanliness. This kind of surfaces helps ensure there is no mould or flaking paint.

Additionally the flat was basically outfitted with all the basics with the exception that there was no washing machine and no fridge. We have been able to borrow a little, pint-sized, fridge which meets all our needs. For our washing needs, we hand washed for the first months and then, in the new year, we purchased a proper washing machine.

And so our housing was established, but we weren’t there to simply live.

One of the things that we were involved in was the production of Turkish Christian videos. Our first video shoot was in Izmir – ancient Smyrna about an hours drive north of Selçuk. An hour’s drive and, oh, er, we don’t have a vehicle.

And so the solution, not only to convey us but all the kit needed to shot a video, we decided the only alternative was to rent a car. We found a small place which let cars and the price was surprisingly affordable.

I smiled.

It turns out that I’m a bit naïve when it comes to renting a vehicle, I haven’t done it much and in the UK, it is pretty much standard stuff. Well, here was a reminder that we weren’t in the UK any longer.

On driving the car to the flat to load it, it didn’t take long before we realised that this was not your typical UK quality rental car. The car did function and most of the basic features did work, even if on a somewhat sporadic basis.

My smile dimmed a wee bit.

So we loaded up the vehicle and headed off for the metropolis of Izmir.

The journey commenced by joining the autobahn/motorway/freeway – whatever word conveys these modern masterpieces of roadway engineering, straightening, flattening, spanning and otherwise taming the terrain.

My, how Turkey has changed!

We drove in relative… uh, relative, er, well, we drove to the outskirts of the city, then off at an nondescript exit, left, right, left and so on to a road that we followed towards the centre of town.

We had a Turk with us giving directions, this was in the days before in-car navigation via satellite – without our guide, I would still be in the car going in mindless circles in the Byzantine labyrinth of roads that make up the maze called Izmir.

“Thank you, Lord, for providing E. to guide us to the Church.”

A Christian band were doing a concert in the church and I was there to video tape the performance with a view of creating a lasting snapshot of the ministry of the concert.

The group was from Canada and hence a long way from home. They spoke English or was it French or both, I can’t remember, anyway, they shared their faith through verbal translation of comments and things said, they also projected the Turkish translation of the songs via an overhead projector and distributed paper copies of the lyrics to those who came. The people came to hear a foreign band and enjoy the music – and they were afforded an opportunity to understand the words as well.

The room was empty as the group went through their final sound check – everything was as ready as the kit and acoustics of the room would allow. I looked around the starkly empty room and quietly wondered to myself where the people were for the concert. With just a few minutes to go, the doors were thrown open and people streamed in – they must have been queuing outside.

Within a matter of minutes the room was full.

With all the technical stuff done, the band and supporting people all retired to pray – not a rushed, “Let’s start the concert”, but a real pause and waiting on God and committing each other, the evening and all aspects to God.

After prayer and returning to the main room, I slipped my shoes off and climbed up beside the main camera – this was to be my first time using the main camera in a real filming situation (it was an exDemo, professional, used camera – so the camera had far more experience than I).

I ran through a mental tick-list:

  • tripod stable and balanced, tick,
  • correct filter selected, tick,
  • white balance done, tick,
  • fresh battery loaded, tick,
  • full tape loaded, tick,
  • second tape ready, tick,
  • mike turned on, tick,
  • mike recording levels set, tick,

Everything going according to plan and almost done the tick-list and, what’s this, a member of the band asking if they can turn the house lights down?

I think to myself, “It is important that this concert is the best it can be for the people who have actually come and made the effort to be here….”

I say, “Turn the lights down…”

The number two camera is set on fully automatic, so it should adjust okay – but the main camera, the number one camera, well, this is the first time I’ve used it in an actual filming situation and it is all set to manual (as it should be).

Before we began, I had set the correct setting for the lighting… the lighting that was now dramatically changing… I hit the aperture button and it seemed to cope, but no new ‘white balance’, no adjusting for the colour temperature… just trying to adapt whilst things merrily carry on around me…

As the concert began, I started with framing a wide-angle shot… and now the myriad of questions flooded my mind: “How is the sound?”, “What is the light like?”, I was not liking the light and so I made an adjustment on the fly… good/bad thing to do, the video looks better, but now we have a dramatic change part way through the shot…..

…and for the next two hours, I remain, steadfast, standing beside the camera, trying to do my best, sore feet notwithstanding, trying not to move too much and doing my best not to bump the camera… and so the evening went.

Without question, this was a good experience with much being learned on preparation, camera technique, lighting and the co-ordination between the number one and number two cameras. I thought and hoped that there may even have been enough good video to actually produce something. The proof of this particular pudding is in the editing stage.

Unfortunately what became clear in the edit suite was that this was just a ‘good learning experience’ with no viable product resulting.

Our evening efforts in shooting the video were finished, but our evening was not yet over… we still had miles to go before we could rest.

And so after the concert, we broke down, lugged and loaded up all the kit and headed out to return to Selçuk.

We drove to first one motorway, which was leading to another, and then that motorway split three ways, two lanes going left, two going down into a tunnel and two peeling off to the right – by God’s grace I was on the right and was carried away by the departure of the two lanes.  It so happens that this was the direction that we were supposed to go.

Yikes, this is not fun.

We then merge with and join another motorway. But we are separated from the main carriageway by a rather formidable metal crash barrier, four lanes thundering along, all going the same way, but yet, separate.

“What is going on here?” I frantically mutter to myself. A bit ahead, the two lanes to my left go up and over an overpass and we… and we go down, to the right towards, yes, yet another motorway.

We got home in the end.

My, how much Turkey has changed, but in the last twenty years, I must confess, so have we.

It seems the only constant is that nothing stays constant.

There is much to learn, much to adjust to, much to unlearn as things have most definitely changed and are continually changing.

Regardless of where we abide, of new locales or old, I’ve found that there is another constant constant: we need God’s Grace day by day to live, adjust, change, to learn, to unlearn, to be light and salt in this world.

(written April 2014)

What can I say, despite evidence to the contrary, I can’t really say that I ‘enjoy’ flying. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it is the fastest and in a counter-intuitive sense, it is more often than not, at least here in Turkey, the cheaper way to travel.

In spite of this, as we were planning our trip from Istanbul to Antakya I seriously considered taking the inter-city coach. It is rather ironic that I was seriously thinking about this travel option in the face of the fact that it takes the best part of 17 hours driving time to cover the distance between Istanbul and Antakya – a distance in excess of a thousand kilometres. However, in its favour, it is relatively straightforward in that we could get a connecting service bus from Üsküdar to the inter-city coach departure point and on our arrival at the Antakya bus station, there is another service bus to the town centre and very close to where we live – all included in the price. Another big plus of the inter-city coach is they allow ‘all’ our luggage – it is not weighed nor is it counted (within reason). And unlike the cheap flight providers, tea, coffee, water, fruit juice and soft drinks are all provided through out the journey and at no additional cost.

But in making the comparison, it transpires that the price, is very close to the cost of flying which gets you there in about an hour and a half. That is flying time; to this you must add the time getting to and from the airports and the various security checks that are part and parcel of air travel which means the actual, total, travel time is approximately five or six hours – barring flight delays. Nevertheless, it is still just a snip of time compared to the 17 hours on the overnight bus and service buses.

Having said all that, and in choosing to fly, that does not mean that I ‘enjoy’ the airport experience, nor the actual flying experience – I just choose to do it. It makes the most sense and on balance, is the best, most intelligent choice.

Generally speaking, with flying you know what to expect…generally speaking…

For example, on Thursday, 29 March 2014, at London Heathrow we entered the normal security check area. However, unbeknownst to us, the rules had been tightened. This, I feel, is fundamentally a good thing, tighter rules should hinder the evil ones who desire to engender terror, but it does have an impact on the normal travelling public.

You see, in 2014, I would travel with a large number of hard drives, or I suppose, more correctly, I would travel with an inordinately large number of hard drives which I carried in my carry-on luggage (to keep safe). Today I carry fewer hard drives, but with greater storage capacity, and put them in my hold luggage for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Having all these hard drives allows me to have access to most of the material, photos, videos and such that I have accumulated over the years. I do this as I find it impossible to anticipate what exactly I will need in the three months that we sojourn in the United Kingdom. If I have this excessive number of hard drives it is highly likely that whatever I may want or need will be there – and if not, it, most likely, will not be crucial to the task at hand.

So now, in addition to the now-standard indignity of half undressing at the x-ray machine – belts, bags, coats and sometimes shoes – and in addition to taking my computer out of its bag, now we must virtually unpack the carry-on and lay out all the hard drives. And all this in a pressing queue of fellow-travellers who want to get this rather necessary but unpleasant aspect of their journey over and done with.

I’m normally in a hot sweat by the time I’ve undressed and unpacked and got things moving through the machine. Followed, of course by my turn through the detector door frame like apparatus being closely watched by the security personnel on the opposite side.

Well that is the system, or shall I say, I learned that, this was the new system on that March day.

We were not aware of this until my bag, containing my myriad of hard drives, actually failed the x-ray test. Thusly rejected, I had to return, take over a place in the queue (“sorry, sorry”) and then lay all the hard drives out and send them through the x-ray machine once again.

Of course, after passing this security check, this is not the end of the process, for we then have to re-pack the bag and not in a slap-happy, helter-skelter manner, but in a proper, well packed, everything once again fitting in and in a manner that it will not shift nor be damaged in the rough and tumble of the travelling process.

This is no biggie, nor is it an unusual task and, really, it is no problem at all. But when you are already hot and sweaty, in a crowded room, with your trousers falling down because you have had to surrender your belt to the x-ray machine and you are publicly unpacking and re-packing your bag – well that is a bit of a hassle and on balance, not the most rewarding nor pleasant aspect of our journey.

Then, once through security, you wait in the crowded air-side shopping mall which, regardless of all the restaurants, shops and coffee shops, is still just a glorified ‘waiting area’ where you, uh, ‘wait’ until it is time to traipse off to your gate.

Often you do not know to which gate you will be going and so you want to be where you can see the boards which will declare your gate…. you and everyone else who doesn’t know their gate – so finding such a locale is often not easy for they are invariably crowded or over crowded. If you end up in a seat where you can not see the board, you have this niggling imperative bouncing around in your mind, “Is it time to get up and check the board?”  “Have they posting the gate now – go have a look,” and so on. It doesn’t make for comfortable waiting. I, at least, feel inhibited and unable to freely allow myself to get engrossed in writing or reading or anything which may distract me  so that I might miss the essential information in a timely manner.

Sometimes, in spite of all the previous queuing, you go and queue up to purchase an over-priced, hot beverage and then while you consume it, you keep wondering if that was the wisest thing to do, for on the flight, you may need to use the ‘facility’ and you often have to climb over someone, walk the length of the aircraft and then, it is quite common to queue to use the facility.  “Should I really be drinking now?” All the while knowing it is too late because, well, I am drinking it….

When, finally, you learn the gate number – and by learning that you are only then apprised of how long it will take you to travel to the gate. You, or should I confess, I, head off, anxiously reading the myriad of signs to make sure I am going the correct way and do not inadvertently miss a turn or miss a sign. Additionally, if the moving walk-way is chosen – often I do not make this particular choice as walking to the gate is the last exercise before being cooped up in a flying tube for hours on end with no real opportunity for any significant movement – anyway, if the moving walk-way is chosen one must needs be careful as often the walk-way breezes past a number of gates and if you have chosen poorly, you can stand and watch your gate receding behind you.

When, at last, you arrive at the gate you may find that there are additional security checks you must navigate. Once in the actual boarding salon, or more accurately, just another ‘waiting room’, you once again have the opportunity to, well, ‘wait’, before they begin the boarding process.

They always take families with small children and those with mobility concerns first, as is right and proper. Then they take First / Business Class – and, well, they have paid a significant premium for this privilege – so that, too, is understandable.

Then it is time for ‘cattle class’ to board. Sometimes this is done by seat rows – semi-organised chaos, and at other times, ‘all remaining passengers’ and absolute chaos. You queue up, carrying your carry-on, your coat stuffed under an arm or if you have chosen to wear it to carry it, you are sweating as you shuffle towards the final ticket and passport inspection.

Once past that, you carry on, if fortunate enough to be at a gate with a sky-way, you shuffle on down and onto the aeroplane. Otherwise, it is down the stairs, onto a waiting coach which generally has precious few seats and is predominantly standing room. Once the coach is filled, and the driver has decided it is time to go, you are driven to wherever the plane is parked and there you disembark and join yet another queue to mount the stairs and so board the aeroplane.

Once on board, you find your seats, place your carry-on in the overhead bins and get yourself seated, You do this quickly so as not to obstruct the extremely narrow walk way.

Once seated you wait. You wait while everyone boards the aeroplane. You wait while flight attendants do their checks. Often you wait whilst the pilot waits for permission to ‘push back’ and you wait until he is given a ‘take off slot’.

Then comes the time when the aeroplane trundles around the airport on various taxi ways until it joins the final queue to the runway where other aeroplanes are taking off. Your turn comes, the aeroplane turns onto the runway, lines up, and sits there….

Then the pilot opens up the throttles but he is still holding the aircraft on the brakes – all around you is filled with the roaring and vibrating as the aeroplane strains against the restraints of the brakes, as if eager to launch itself down the run-way. Then, suddenly the brakes are released which is immediately followed by the exhilaration of acceleration as the aeroplane thunders down the runway. And so we carry on, shaking, vibrating and bouncing along until the point that speed and lift, thusly created, overcomes gravity and the multi-tonne aeroplane, together with its load of fuel, passengers and luggage angles sharply up towards the sky, the deafening roar of the engines filling the air and we leave good old trusty terra-firma behind and below us.

Once airborne we have the delightful roar of the engines as an accompaniment added to the sound of the air rushing by as we streak through the sky at 35,000 feet. In this manner we have our constant audio companion for the duration of the flight.

If you are one who can not hear well, you are one whose hearing under normal circumstances is not 100%, well then this is an added detraction.

Squeezed into your seat with the seat in front of you far too close, there really is not a lot you can do. Hence, strapped into an economy class seat, you will remain, basically trapped, for the four hours of the flight to Turkey. Deep Vein Thrombosis any one…

On arrival in Istanbul, the order of the day is once again to queue. First you queue to get off the aeroplane then you queue to go through passport control and then you queue to get your luggage – but, the journey is not yet over, no, we still haven’t arrived – there is still the hour plus drive to get to Üsküdar situated as it is, on the opposite side of the city, across the Bosphorous strait.

Once we have arrived in Üsküdar, we have the four flights of stairs up to the flat awaiting us…..

Nevertheless, choosing this form of travel is much, much better than any of the alternatives; let me emphasise that, it is much, much, much better – but, still, not something I look forward to with eager anticipation.

On reflection on the many such journeys we must needs undertake, I see that one of the fruit of the Spirit, ‘patience’ is an essential requirement – not for just surviving the rigours of flight travel, but the key element to positively living the ‘abundant life’ Jesus spoke of. A common, run-of-the-mill activity such as a brief flight is a simple example, of where the fruit of the Spirit of God has place, expression and is essentialy, essential in the daily reality of life.

Here this is no room for theory. In life, ‘nice-sounding’ truisms are not of any real, practical benefit. Here, in the normal rough and tumble of ordinary, real life – just plain, normal life –  here is where the fruit of the Spirit is not a nice ‘add on’ but is integral to life and living.

And so, after the flight we are safely are back in Istanbul, and it is good, very good to be back. Tomorrow (Saturday, 7 April 2014) will be the final leg of our journey as we fly down to Antakya (having not chosen the inter-city coach) – a journey where once again we will be called upon to ‘jump through various logical and sometimes illogical or superficial hoops’, publicly half undressing and the inevitable, mandatory ‘waiting’. Herein, too, is another, typical opportunity to practice ‘patience’, letting the fruit of the Spirit of God have the freedom to be born in me and for me not to be worn down by all the requirements, indignity or interminable waiting required to make a simple trip.

Another opportunity to be ‘patient’ and to exercise and to experience the ‘abundant life’ – now that is something that I can look forward to.

(first written May 2016)

I’ve known about it for over two months…. but that didn’t make it any easier and if anything, it made it more difficult.

There is a system, a good, proper and beneficial system in Turkey. It is modelled on the German system, which, in itself is the epitome of efficiency and thoroughness. This is a proper, pukkah vehicle inspection at established government inspection stations dotted around the country and is required bi-annually for private vehicles and annually for commercial vehicles.

Now this is a good thing. It should mean that the majority of vehicles on the road, both private and commercial are sound, fit and safe.

And so for normal passenger vehicles, like the one I am using, once every two years you make an appointment, take your vehicle to your nearest inspection station, pay the fee and your vehicle is inspected. If it passes, you carry on for another two years. If it fails, well it depends on what kind of failure.

There are two kinds of failure, roughly and poorly translated as light and heavy. Light failure means you really ought to get this fixed – but, practically, you have passed the inspection, you still receive your all important sticker and pass certificate. Heavy failure is a true failure – make it right or stop using the vehicle. You have one go, within a month and at no additional inspection charge, to make it right and be re-inspected. If it fails again, you will need to pay the full inspection fee again to get it re-inspected. And no, you can not skip it for another time.

Now there is nothing in and of this process that should be stressful or cause any undue discomfort.

Nevertheless, I have hosted stress and have had my share of discomfort because of this pending vehicle inspection.

It all began in March when I borrowed the car and was informed at that time that the inspection would be due while the car was in my charge… I would have to see to it being done. Now this is an extremely small price to pay for the privilege of having the use of this car. Of course, I gratefully agreed.

But, in the privacy of my mind I concede that although it is a “small” price to pay, it is not equivalent to no price. While at the same time I must confess that for the vast majority of vehicle owners in Turkey who all have to submit their vehicles to inspection, all, I say with the sole exception of me, will find this process normal and in no wise note-worthy, absolutely no hardship and could never be described as any kind of “price”.

To be frank and honest, this is not my first time in doing a vehicle inspection, but it is something that I dread. Years ago when we had our own vehicle – I sold it in part because it had lost its dependability factor (when will it fail next) – it was a disproportionate expense for the benefit derived – an expense that accrued whether I used it or not, and the bi-annual vehicle inspection.

Yes, the inspection was a significant part of the reason for my selling the car.

So, for two plus months, in the back of my mind, there has been the knowledge, the presence, of the reality of taking the vehicle to the inspection.

That “presence” never leaving, always present, quietly speaking words of dread to me.

Now as one who has trusted Almighty God for eternal salvation, as one who trusts in His daily care and sovereignty, and one who has been given great promises in the Word of God, there is no reason whatsoever that I should be rattled, disturbed, bothered or stressed by such a simple, ordinary, plain and mundane task, as a simple as a vehicle inspection.

And there you go, in spite of all that, bothered I am, rattled I am, disturbed I am and, yes, stressed I am. There is no empirical reason for it – most people will not even notice the process for the inspection. But for me, it is stressful – whether the cause of that stress is valid or not.

So, when faced with a situation such as this what should my response be?

Well, I seriously considered engaging a ‘takipci’ (pronounced tak-ip-dji in Turkish) – that is a chap who, for a fee, basically does the task for you.

I found this very tempting – but then he wants money for the task…  an additional expense for a task that most just do themselves. Besides, in outsourcing the task I am avoiding my problem, deferring my problem, casting it on another and, hence, I have not dealt with it, I have not changed, I have not grown, I have not over-come this, this simple task which for me is a challenge.

If I engaged a takipci, I may not have to face the discomfort and stress, but then, I also have no opportunity to grow my way through this – my fundamental problem remains. I will not change. I will not overcome this trifling problem that has a disproportionate effect on me. It would be, figuratively, running away from my problem.

So, practically what to do?

First, my good wife went on line and made an appointment for the actual vehicle inspection. In this way, with an appointment, it should be, it ought to be, reasonably straight forward on the morning of the inspection. She even made it for the first appointment of the day – before the queues mount up, before the masses descend, before chaos begins its tumultuous reign…

Once that was done, I made an appointment at the Dacia service department for a thorough check – let there be no reason for a failure of any description, whether light or heavy.

Therefore, two days before the dreaded inspection – see how I can reinforce my problem in the words and attitudes I express “dreaded” – I took the car for its service.

On the way to the Dacia service I passed the forbidding Vehicle Inspection station… it was about 7 minutes to eight in the morning, before they actually open and the parking lot was chock-a-block, vehicles everywhere, some already queued up in front of the seven inspection bays doors. It looked chaotic.

My inner person was not mollified by what I saw but horrified. No reason really, but if you are stressing over it, if you are bothered by it, then seeing the crowds and queues of cars is enough to fire up the stress hormones and put them on active duty.

Anyway, at the Dacia service, all went well and I even had them perform the exhaust inspection required and they affixed the correct documents. Basically the car is in good nick and didn’t need anything serious, but….

But the manufacture date of the tyres, the tyres with reasonably good tread, the date is a full four years and that is at the date, if the inspection people examine the date, that is not allowable. Not to run the risk, I replaced the tyres.

Now this cost me more than I was intending, but this is the INSPECTION and I do NOT want to fail. Side note: sure I purchased new tyres but, fundamentally it is good, nay essential, to have good rubber under the vehicle, that is the main point of contact with the road and the tyres need to be in good nick.

Not for the first time, to the people at the Dacia service department, I re-emphasised that I wanted the car fully checked in order that on the day, there would be no failure. I even warned them that if it failed, I would be straight back to them to have it put right and that I would not be happy.

Hmm…not the best testimony to be presenting…. “…see how being a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ makes me different….” Hmm…

So, with four new tyres under me, I headed off, encouraged that there should be no legitimate reason for the vehicle to fail.

That should bring peace and tranquility shouldn’t it?

Well, it would if I were really “resting” and “trusting” and not “stressing” but, alas, I was stressing, not consciously mind you, but stressing all the same. And so, even after doing all that is in my hand to do, I was still disturbed, still bothered, still unsettled, still stressed.

I doubled checked what needs to be in the vehicle for the inspection: first-aid kit, two reflectors, chock for the tyres, tow rope, fire extinguisher…. all present and ready.

The night before the day of the inspection, I went to bed early-ish as I planned to get up earlier than normal. I slept, but it was not the sleep of angels… I woke a little after midnight, again at 01:00 and got up for the nightly stroll at 03:00 noted the passing of 05:00, the arrival of 06:00 and got up at 06:17 to have my breakfast routine, but in hurry-up mode as once completed, I planned to head straight out.

I had an appointment at the first time slot available, for some reason, I thought it was 08:30….

And so, I leave in reasonably good time, climb in the car and after one last quick inspection it dawns on me, where is my appointment paper – probably don’t need it, but hey, I’m stressed, remember, so against all contingencies, I ask my good wife for the paper.

Once retrieved I learned, there and then, that I had made a mistake, the time of the appointment is not 08:30 as I thought but 08:00. I have more than enough time to get there, especially at that time of the morning, far more than enough time, but if you are stressed, then this can put the stress on steroids…

Mine was not the right response, I know. I mean, honestly, how serious is this anyway? Why stress? There is nothing to stress about. This is illogical. This is without reason. This is stupid.

And yet, I was stressed.

I did not drive like the prophet Jehu (2 Kings 9:20), but I didn’t drive in a sedate, “Sunday afternoon drive” frame, I drove in a quick and prompt and well, yes, aggressive manner.

I went across the middle mountain road, moving along sharply, down the hill, passed where the ancient theatre would have sat, onto the main road and prompt-ish up the road and out to the Vehicle Inspection Station.

I arrived in good time.

Mind you, as I anticipated, it was teeming with people, some milling around, a clump of people by the security hut and another clump by the administrative office and cars, vans, truck, lorries and buses on the apron of the station itself. The limited parking facilities are already filled to and bordering on surpassing its capacity.

I swung the car past people parked out side the gate, powered through the gateway.

I have an appointment.

I proceeded past the security hut and down towards the bays… the bonafide parking spaces were all occupied, so I pulled in front of a bay and parked – I have an appointment for the first time slot after all.

A village type chap approached my car, clothing fit for a village gentleman, complete with a flat cap and trim moustache. Don’t park here, park elsewhere, go to the security hut and check in there.

Okay, helpful. I learned later that he is a Takipci – one of those chaps who knows the system and what needs to be done.

So I back up and there, it wasn’t there when I drove in, is a legitimate parking spot on the side – my fear was if there was no space I would then have to park outside of the apron area, outside the gate, off to the side of the site and then when my turn comes I would be scrambling to collect the car and get it to the bay door….. Thankfully, on the apron I was able to park up and then I make my way over to the security hut by the gate.

Nothing is open yet. There are people everywhere. There are vehicles everywhere. But the station is not yet open for business. I have an appointment. Others, too, have appointments. However it seems that many, many, I would go as far as to suggest the vast majority, do not have appointments.

So I join the loitering cluster of humanity by the security hut. At about twenty minutes to eight, a security man, after telling people to get their cars out of where it is forbidden to be, enters the hut.

Now the Turkish queue forms, more a cluster and yet with its own etiquette and rules – I move into this mass, after all, I have an appointment.

The security man is issuing numbers and people are filing off. I notice the throng of people by the administrative office has swarmed inside. My turn comes. I say I have an appointment. He asks for my car registration number and tells me to return to the security hut at eight o’clock.

Okay.

No, I was not understanding. I drift back over to the administration office to find it is teeming with men – vehicle inspections are man’s work. There are six different people working and there are queues in front of all of them and many more people waiting on the periphery.

I beat a hasty retreat. This is as chaotic and convoluted as I remembered.

I wandered back to the security hut and as the queue was light, I re-entered the queue and when my turn came round I reiterated what I understood, that is to say, I was to return at eight o’clock and then I would go to the administration office.

“Yes” said he, be here “at eight”.

Okay, as it was ten minutes to eight, and as I needed to be at the hut at eight, I decided not to wander anywhere but to patiently wait there under the early morning sun until the magic hour.

At a few minutes to eight he began issuing numbers to those others whom he had said, “come back at eight”, and he gave me mine.

Then as I understood the instructions, I went off to the administration office.

It still was a morass of people, queuing, waiting, loitering, and well, just there, filling the space.

Now do I queue? If so, where? I stand on the right side of the room, and after a while decide that that wasn’t the right place to stand.

Why? No reason, just made that value judgement. I moved closer to the middle of the six queues. There I notice that they have put stainless steel structures between the queues to render it more British in appearance rather than a Turkish queue – only one can get to the head of a queue at a time – what a novel approach.

In amongst all the waiting men I saw the village gentlemen, the Takipci, and he, being a helpful individual, looks at my ticket number and says “there is one number ahead of you” and when I puzzled where I should queue, he said “they will call your number”.

So nice to know the system. I hope my ears are up to the task.

The employee on the left hand side calls out 802, and when there is no response, he calls 803 – uh, that’s me. The poor chap who was loitering between me and my destination – almost got knocked out of the way. I’m a bit stressed, whether I want to be or not.

At the desk I pass over the car documents. He asks for ID, so after I query I give him my passport. I know how much this is going to cost, so I get the money counted and on the counter. He is typing away and examining the computer – the final check to make sure there are no outstanding fines, charges or infractions registered against the vehicle (which would invalidate the inspection until all fines and fees are duly paid) and then he reaches up and takes the money.

Eureka, that act means I have passed the first hurdle, all the paper work has been accepted. I guess at this time I should declare that, yes, once, I failed at this most basic of steps.

He hands me a receipt and some paperwork and tells me to go outside and wait. He assures me that as I have an appointment, it won’t be long. Oh, and they will call me by name.

Good. Well, I think it is good.

Outside, again under the unrelenting Antakayan sun, I loiter. The tannoy is making a string on announcements. Many are licence numbers, not names.

Now this is not too bad as most of the vehicles have vehicle registrations beginning with 31, however, the car I am using has a registration beginning with 34 – I should be able to recognise that.

But he said that they would call me by name……. But which name? The name of the owner of the car? By my foreign, passport name? And if so, by what rules of pronunciation, this I did not know.

Additionally, I hear, distinctly “kanal a” or in English I understand them to say bay “a” – except all the bays are numbered one through seven and not lettered. “How is it that they said “a””, I wonder.

Then, as I am treated to more announcements via the tannoy, I hear them say the bay number and the final word, in Turkish, is “kanala” that by translation means “to the bay”, ah, I see, the letter “a” that I heard was not referring to the letter “a” but to the standard and rather ubiquitous Turkish suffix “a” meaning “to” so meaning “to the bay” – basic Turkish…duh)

Standing there on the large apron, I see a steady stream of cars going in the various bays. Hm… I have an appointment for the first available time slot, and here I am standing, waiting, while crowds and crowds of vehicles are going in ahead of me…. What is the system here?

I chat with a waiting chap.

I go and get the things that are required to be in the vehicle and I put them on the passenger seat, open and on display. Once I had a light failure because they didn’t see that I had everything. Not this time, thought I.

Then I notice, as various cars are accepted into the bay, that the inspector opens the boot and has a good look around.

Consequently, I then move everything from the front, passenger seat, back to the boot, but on display if and when the boot is opened.

As I stand there waiting, listening to the tannoy I notice that my car has been blocked in. Okay.

Then I discern in the sounds coming out of the tannoy, Rij Kırkvud…… uh that would be me.

I hasten back to the car, pile in, start it up and look behind me. The driver who has blocked me in is endeavouring to move out of my way. He probably can sense my tension and stress and fears for the safety of his automobile….

As I reverse out, and then notice that I’m double blocked in, but by manoevering, I extract the car and move over to bay 3.

The inspector comes out and walks up to the bonnet at which point I understand and open the bonnet latch. Then he comes to the door with the plastic protector for the seat – this is as far as I go.

He then asks what’s in the boot. I’m not sure what he means, but I begin enumerating the various things that are required to be found in the vehicle. Right or wrong, he didn’t ask any more and told me to go out and around the building to the back side where the car will come out. He will shepherd the vehicle through the inspection process.

So around the building I go and waiting at the far end of the building whilst the car undergoes the various stations of inspection in the long inspection bay.

I don’t watch. I’m stressed. Shouldn’t be, but, honestly, I am. So I stand and look anywhere but where the car is.

The car comes down to my end of the bay, they perform the check of the alignment of the headlamps, drive it out and tell me to park up and come back.

No indication as to how it has gone. I mean, it should pass with no problem … it should, but until it does….

What is being examined here? the vehicle or me? I feel like I am being examined. I am stressed – but there is nothing for me to do.

I park up and return… but to where do I return – I don’t know. There is no one at my bay. So I join the cluster of men by the end of bay one. There are some computers over on the side… that looks like a likely place for the paperwork to be finalised – whether you pass or failure, the paperwork has to be finalised. It is there that the paperwork will be done, methinks.

I stand. I wait. It is all over now – or is it – just waiting for the word.

Someone is called, the inspector has paperwork in his hands. Yes, I am waiting in the right area.

Then the inspector walks towards me with a fist full of paper work, and I can see on top of it all, the sticker that is to be affixed to the registration plate – in other words, it appears we have passed…. Not just the car, we, it and I have passed. Relief. Blesséd relief.

Once I have the longed for paperwork I return, deeply liberated, not triumphant, just, finally, stress-free. I affix the coveted sticker on the front registration plate. Wasn’t sure where to put it, so, after cleaning the plate, I put it over top of the old one.

Then I look at the report…. I have five points of light failure – I can live with that. But I really did not want to have any point of failure.

Ultimately, the purpose of this whole episode is not the vehicle inspection, but my identifying and properly dealing with stress – regardless if it is justified stress or unjustified stress.

In this I failed. This whole multi-month vehicle inspection saga has not been my finest hour. But I am more aware of the basic equation now and, by God’s grace, the next time, for a next time there most certainly will be, I will do better in this situation. With His grace I will confess, live, demonstrate and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding – for this is mine in Christ regardless to the cause of the stress, regardless as to whether it is reasonable or unreasonable…the promise is peace in all situations.

This story is not over, just this chapter. Next time, by the grace of God, I am trusting for a much better experience.