Superheroes, Turkey and reunions

The last couple of weeks have been very busy, I have been working hard and eagerly anticipating the arrival of both Michelle and Sam. I am once again living out of garbage bags as my new roomie Lucy had some mysterious itching which later turned out to be a rash which was secondary to the tonsillitis that she had, nevertheless we got the bed bug guy in to do his thing and now the room looks like someone’s halfway through a burglary. Lucy’s also developed a penchant for Dettol to help soothe her rash so our room also smells like a sick bay. We are also woken up most mornings to the sound of drilling and banging as our neighbors have decided to renovate and the walls are paper-thin. Some mornings I feel as though they are drilling right next to my skull and just hours later are completely quiet which makes me wonder why on earth can’t they do the quiet stuff at 7am and the noisy stuff around 10? I mean come on already!

Luckily I not only had work to keep me from counting down the days til my impending holiday but I have this feature film that I am volunteering on. After a promising meeting with the director where it was decided that I would assist him I was quickly on my way to putting together the ever-changing crew list and callsheets and emailing makeup artists, camera crew and the like verifying contact details and asking thousands of questions to the Producers who were leaking information through to me bit by bit while I tried to make sense of all the email’s darting around. Putting together production documents based on places I’d never visited in London with names of people whom I’d never met for a film I had only read 5 pages of. That first week was tricky – so it was a relief to show up on the first shoot day merely as a runner. The first scene of the film was to be shot in a gorgeous little apartment in leafy green Archway in North London. It wasn’t the easiest place to find and I got lost which is embarrassing seeing as I wrote the crew call sheet. Luckily I soon found out that I was an hour early (no one had actually told me my call time)  so I ended up helping the set dressers prepare the room – which basically involved me helping them decide which shaped fairy lights could go in what room. And when the rest of the producers showed up half an hour late I knew that this wasn’t going to be any ordinary shoot and perhaps one of those occasions where I would learn much more when things go wrong. There have been many variables as to why this shoot is proving to more shambolic than most – personal issues surrounding the Director, lack of budget/time. The Producers though – bless them are such good-humored people and are volunteering their time and energy outside their already demanding jobs to do this for a friend. The directors own mother is even providing catering filling Tupperware containers with copious amounts of home cooked casserole to keep costs down. And I feel that I have been welcomed with open arms and that I am apart of a team again and that is such a fantastic feeling. To be needed. Even if it’s just to handle a massive coffee/tea order trying to drive up the hill in Meera’s tiny Fiat holding our breath desperately trying not to spill everything. Or weighing up the options between Supreme, Texas barbecue and Vegetarian pizzas for lunch. Or standing out in the cold dark street in the bushes minding the kit while they shoot an outdoor scene.

And then in the middle of all that magically Michelle was in the country, even better she was in the same city, but I had to focus on work and the weekend before we were due to leave for Turkey I worked the Saturday night until 2am and it was decided as we had an early flight on the Sunday that I was to organize a transfer early that morning straight from work rather than go all the way home first. So finally closing time arrived and not a minute early as we found that particular morning we were practically beating off the drunks from the store with a stick. I put my backpack on and headed for the bus stop just narrowly missing a pile of puke on the night bus, I was dog tired but felt sick with excitement at the thought of being reunited with my old friend. After a late pick up from Earls Court I found myself at Gatwick airport hours before we were due to leave, lining up with all the bright orange Brits and their families preparing for a holiday in a warmer climate. Even though I was miles too early I kept ‘seeing’ Michelle everywhere. Just as I had been seeing her on the streets of London since she announced she had arrived in the city. After getting through security and noticing our gate hadn’t been called yet I sat on the other side of security waiting for Michelle to make her entrance. I closed my eyes briefly the tiredness starting to kick in now that I had finally stopped running around everywhere. And then finally I received a call from her asking where I was before we both realized that we were staring at the same Boots (Chemists). We locked eyes and a squeal was let out and we ran into each other’s arms much to the surprise of those around us and squeezed each other and jumped up and down like Price is Right contestants. What followed was a frantic run to the gates when Easyjet decided to announce our gates right at the last minute, a four hour groggy flight where I fell asleep and Michelle took awful photo’s of me. And then we arrived and I realized before they would even let us into the country that we had to pay for a visa. Minor panic attack when I left my passport in the loo (Why do I keep doing that in airport toilets?) Then we were on the shuttle transfer to the hotel. I think geographically it was meant to be an hour and a half ride but took probably about two and a half hours. The countryside we drove through seemed quite remote, houses dotted the mountains with the occasional small abandoned looking village.

The temperature was moderate, the sky clear blue and the occasional glimpse we had of the sea was a beautiful one. To be honest there wasn’t a whole lot to see on the journey, what I do remember most is the English top 40 music the driver played and the tourist sitting in front of us who had a face like a cats arse despite being dropped off at a much nicer hotel than ours. The tourist season was over it seemed and all that remained were remnants of a busy summer season, but that didn’t bother us. As we drove through neighboring town Didim there were thousands of construction sites and half built apartments and houses everywhere and empty dusty fields filled with bits of scrap metal bricks and mortar with workers nowhere to be seen.

We were tired and the roads were bumpy and long and we were getting desperate to get off the bus, with the circles that the shuttle seemed to be doing it felt almost as if the driver didn’t know where he was going. We finally made it late afternoon, and realized that where we were staying was quite remote. The outside of the resort Michelle remarked looked a little bit like a Disney building and the blue and white color scheme carried throughout the hotel. The language barriers started in reception where we would ask a question and either get a blank look or an unrelated answer. At times I was translating English to Michelle who couldn’t quite place their strong accents. But not wanting to be typical Aussie/British tourists abroad we embraced the situation as much as possible and quickly found food and sat and had a few drinks by the pool. Mehmet or ‘Al pacino’ as he named himself was the Spa manager at the hotel soon made himself known, trying to sell us spa packages they had on offer. As the sun set on our first evening we heard the call to prayer echo across the land eerie yet peaceful and with that we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

At dinner we sat outside – not realizing that it got quite cool in Turkey in the evening this time of year and we soon had waiters coming outside introducing themselves to us and asking us the same questions in broken English. One made us a rose out of a napkin, and another brought out a cocktail and we kind of laughed it off thinking this was probably something they do to all girls that stay here.

The following day we were awoken by the roosters crowing in the farm next door, we had a breakfast which consisted of pancakes, lovely fresh gozleme’s savoury doughnuts, salads and coffee out of a machine that sadly tasted miles better than any coffee I’ve had in the UK. Then we sun-baked on lounges by the beach with an Efes beer in hand and all seemed fine until I brushed off what I thought was a fly and quickly realized I had been stung by a wasp. Remembering what Michelle had said about the hornets in Hong Kong being deadly I started to panic not sure if I was allergic or not. All the Turkish men on the beach were there and I’m trying to explain what has happened. ‘Bzzz, Bzzz’ I said pointing to my leg, someone managed to say in broken english ‘Put a tampon on it’, I took this to mean something cold so I rested my beer against it and seeing that there was another wasp circling decided it was time to go inside and inspect the swelling bite. After it didn’t appear to be getting any worse and we had decided that if I was going to go into anaphylactic shock I would have by now so we moved to the pool side and I put my leg up.

That evening we took the shuttle into the nearby town of Altinkum in search of some real Turkish fare, just in time to see the beautiful sunset and the onslaught of restauranteurs on the strip harassing us to sit down for a bite to eat. Including one who introduced himself, before saying we could call him Ross – Michelle and I looked at each other for a moment before realizing he bore a slight resemblance to Ross from friends. Obviously these guys were used to catering for an English audience. Another reminder that we were in a popular British tourist spot was the real lack of Turkish food in the restaurants. They had fish and chips, curries even hot dogs. We ended up sitting in a particularly touristy cafe by the water the ‘Toy Story’ cafe simply because the waiter didn’t harass us the moment we looked at the menu. Quite a few cliquey (as we soon found out) English expats were sitting in the front having a smoke. We watched the sun go down and listened to the hits from the 80’s including classics by Michael Bolton. Stray dogs tried to approach our table, one tried to gnaw the cane in my chair before being shooed off by one of the restaurant owners and we fell in love with an adorable fat squat of a dog who had this real sooky look on her face and I playfully nicknamed Julia Roberts as an animal ‘Lookalike’ Before strolling along the promenade to a fair on the hill aptly named Luna Park where the operators who were talking in a group quickly dispersed when they saw us coming which reminded me of my old work! And sideshow games that had really random prizes like a toaster and a milkshake maker.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn, even the roosters were all like ‘Go back to bed’ (insert Turkish accents) we decided we would be healthy and go for a run on the beach – what we didn’t anticipate was how cold it was going to be and although the lovely beach was deserted even the sand was cold as we ran laps, did starjumps and eventually a short meditation by the water. We had booked a spa package that day and were eager to relax and enjoy a nice Turkish bath…whatever that was. When we arrived at the spa we were greeted by two Asian ladies who turned out to be Balinese. Al Pacino appeared and we started to panic as he had been particularly sleazy towards me after asking me the previous day if I had a boyfriend – experience has now taught me to now say I have a husband if I don’t want to be harassed. He gave us each a small sarong and led us to the change rooms and we stripped down to our undies and wrapped it around us. First he led us to the sauna where it was too hot to sit down so I decided to stand up and after a minute or so Michelle had to get out because she couldn’t handle the heat. One of the women came up to her outside and said to her ‘Ask for women, tell him women only’ We were then led to this large marble room with benches, taps and sinks around the perimeter and a large square slab in the centre. We sat there on the slate when Mehmet appeared wearing nothing but a matching sarong and as soon as we saw him Michelle and I said adamantly ‘Women only, women only’ shaking our heads thinking ‘What the fuck?’ as there were two capable women do our treatment. Luckily he got the message and to our relief the two asian ladies appeared in their little cotton sarong towels. They told us to place the sarong on the marble and lie down before placing something to prop our heads onto then they started exfoliating our skin with some mits scrubbing every inch of our body then they started pouring warm water all over us which felt devine. Then they got what looked like huge bags full of foam and squeezed the foam all over us while we lied there. I likened it to that feeling when you’re a kid and you’re lying in bed and your mum makes the bed with you in it letting the sheets gently settle onto your body. Then we lay there like two cloud people with only our heads poking out the top. And then they started massaging the soap into our bodies and it was so relaxing – followed by another rinse down before we were dried by the attendants like babies and sat in reclining chairs for our mud mask. After we washed the masks off we were treated to an hour long full body massage and afterwards Michelle had what she described as the most painful pedicure she’d ever had, I sat with her as she squeezed my hand through it relieved that I had opted out of that particular activity.

Sick of the watered down alcohol we went to the little general store next to the resort and bought a bottle of wine to drink before checking out the discotheque (the little nightclub they have in the resort) After Michelle and I napped in the afternoon we went and sat down on the beach in the dark looking up at the stars with our wine listening to our favorite songs and laughing before we were interrupted by a random guy asking to sit with us, we said no and he left. The leering men were starting to get on our nerves as we just wanted to be left alone. Not to mention the manager who told me he liked me and asked me if I would go with him to dinner on his bike, and Jimmy telling Michelle she looked beautiful when her and I were shoveling food into our mouths one night at dinner.

We sat there for a while drinking and it appeared that we again had an audience, this time they brought us hot chocolate and were asking us loads of questions, we told them we had husbands up in our room. And that I was a doctor and Michelle was a lawyer and that they should leave us be because our husbands would get angry. They couldn’t understand a lot of what we were saying so we gave up and headed back to the resort and ran into Andre who took us to the discotheque where it was literally just us and them and a DJ playing English music in what would have been sprawling with tourists during the high season. A little drunk and annoyed by the constant stares my tactic was to dance as unattractively as possible to the music – so I hopped around like a kangaroo, and grabbed my shoes in my hands and played them like maracas. We actually had a great time just letting loose and dancing our cares away in the nightclub built for two.

The next morning we were up early again off to seek out a day on a boat, we headed out early to Altinkum and walked into a holiday tour booking agent and booked a boat trip for 30 TL which works out to be about £10. The woman we spoke to was British from Blackpool and had lived in Altinkum for 15 years and seemed quite friendly at first but then it slowly dawned on us that she was a bit racist the more we spoke to her and it just got a bit awkward so we kind of backed away slowly. It was a beautiful sunny day and the sun made the turquoise blue water shimmer like diamonds. We set sail on this lovely boat where you could climb on deck and sunbathe or just nap in the sun. Then they stopped the boat after half an hour or so and pulled up anchor at paradise beach for a swim. The water was really cold at first but once you were in it was lovely and so clear and blue that you could see right to the bottom it was lovely. Lunch was lovely fresh salads, rice and grilled chicken. We sipped crisp chilled cider as we sat on the edge of our boat and reflected on the last few days.

Our last day in Turkey was pretty lazy, we had a little gym session followed by a lovely huge lunch and then just hung by the pool. It wasn’t until making our way to the airport that we started to run into problems. Michelle was starting to get a headache – the kind that if it isn’t treated only gets worse but we didn’t have any ibuprofen so we decided to wait until the airport. Unfortunately the airport didn’t sell any painkillers and after trying to explain to the shopkeeper she got security to call first aid who came running thinking it was an emergency – they didn’t have panadol either. So all the poor thing could do was lie down on the bench at the airport and try to sleep as we had a 4 hour wait before our flight while I wandered around duty free trying to find something to soothe her headache, I ended up coming back with Turkish delight. When she awoke she felt better but as soon as she started to feel better my stomach started churning, and what followed were frequent trips to the toilet. Clumsily when we finally boarded the plane I spilled Turkish delight all over my seat and got white powder everywhere. I went bright red as all the passengers looked at me covered in powder as if I was the worst drug smuggler in the world. I then sat in the seat even though it wasn’t mine to try and cover up the mess we had made before an English woman came to sit down and I was forced to explain what happened sheepishly. They replaced the entire seat and as I sat down, my tummy did somersaults and the pain was so bad I felt like I was having contractions like some sort of labour. I could’ve fueled that plane with the amount of gas that I had generated during that flight. I’ve never in my life had a more uncomfortable time and it continued after I got off the plane too.

That evening I was straight back at work, but with only two more shifts before seeing Sam who had arrived in London while I was in Turkey. On the Sunday morning I had booked tickets for us to go to the infamous Church, a dayclub in London where everyone dresses up and parties from 11:45am – 4pm. I have been told by numerous people that it’s a London ‘must do’ So after excitedly greeting each other at Tooting Broadway station that cold and dreary morning we headed for Tesco for breakfast food and to buy alcohol for pre drinks. It was such a unusual experience seeing Sam at the gates of my local tube station. I knew it was coming but after all the talk, all the lead up it was finally here. As we drank we painted our faces and caught up on what was happening back home and her London adventures so far. I tried hard to remember what it was like for me when I first arrived here, to try to imagine what it must feel like for Sam.

As soon as we got off the tube at Elephant and Castle we started seeing revelers dressed in all sorts of crazy costumes, a banana, a Where’s Wally costume and even a few other mimes. Luckily the church was very close to the station and as we were frisked upon entry we were wondering what we were getting ourselves in for. The place was full of people and had a grimy yet cool concert feel to it. Uni songs blasted throughout the place and we purchased our drinks tokens and were reminded of the classy nature of the establishment by the (three drinks in a bag) that were presented to us both on display of the token. Some guy approached us pretending to be a mime to try and pick up Sam. There was a disco gospel group that came up on stage with a really funny reverend, strippers, drinking games and lots of cheesy music all in all it was good fun. The most unforgettable part though was being unleashed onto the unsuspecting public in broad daylight all blurry eyed wandering aimlessly around at 4pm in the afternoon.

Since then I’ve been helping Sam find a place to live as unfortunately there’s no room at our place anymore. Sam had arranged to look at a place not far from me so we excitedly made our way to this place and as we were early took note of the outside and noticed an Indian couple who kept walking past the house and looking at it like extras in a film, we guessed that they were looking too. A guy finally came – clearly not expecting us as he wasn’t very welcoming and let us into the house. It was quite dark with a narrow hallway and very narrow steps leading up into the bedroom. The kitchen/dining area was tiny and what appeared to be the actual loungeroom seemed to be being used for a bedroom. The first room was tiny, but the second room was a little better and as we were exiting the second room this random girl came out of nowhere and was trying to get past us on the stairs. We couldn’t work out whether she was a current resident or whether she was looking for a place too as she barely said anything. Then this foreign man walks in with a vacuum cleaner and we assume he’s the landlord as he announces that he has a room next door too. He then takes us into the house next door and the weird girl follows. He takes us into a small room where the bed takes up the entire room and there’s a separate space next to it with a piano. I ask about the other people in the house and he said there’s a few couples. His English was terrible and it took him a while to understand me when I asked him to see the backyard. He took us to this huge overgrown jungle of a yard and said in his thick accent with a completely straight face ‘You can sun bake out here..’ Sam and I tried so hard not to laugh, especially when I asked him whether or not he was the landlord and he seemed puzzled and said ‘Kind of..’ and even though I could tell Sam and I were both thinking ‘Oh my god no’ I asked how we would get in touch if she was interested in either of the rooms, even that question seemed to puzzle him. I was beginning to think this was just some random immigrant off the street. And when Sam and I left and were firmly out of earshot we giggled and thought to ourselves ‘What the hell was that?’ luckily the night wasn’t a total loss and we ended up at The little bar for drinks down the road chatting to the bartender about our first house hunt experience then off to Emma and Larry’s bar where 51 year local Kevin tried being the wing man for socially awkward Mark the mechanic. So it wasn’t a total waste of a day.

Since then Sam’s had her interview with Winter Wonderland AND been offered a job at M&M’s world so all we really need to do now is find her a place so she can properly settle in to London life. We have all these plans about things we want to see and do in and around London so have decided to do something different each week. This week we had a Povo Aussie’s in London day on account of my brokeness  which started with free beers at Emma and Larry’s pub as they were cleaning the lines. Then we played ‘Povo ready steady cook’ using ingredients from our communal food box in the kitchen and then walked all the way to Crystal Palace and explored the nearby park – had an alcoholic chatting to us. Then met a dog called smudge obsessed with collecting leaves and sat in the pub that was voted pub of the year 2013 in South East London. It’s so nice to have someone from home with my sense of humor to laugh and explore and hopefully travel with – I am really looking forward to this new London chapter and all of the fun to come. Here’s to new friends and old friends in old London town!

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