On Tuesday we go to a village market to get some more veggies for the week. Life is much slower here than in the UK, everybody seems so happy, smiles and waves at each other and at us. People are predominantly muslim, the women wear beautiful head-scarves and flowery harem pants, the call to prayer still makes us stop what we are doing and listen in awe. I haven't felt as genuinely welcomed by local people since traveling in India. Despite the language barrier being so strong that conversation with local people consists of us spluttering some of the Turkish words we can manage (hello, please, thank you), them responding with a few words in Turkish, us saying a few words in English, them saying a few words in Turkish, us saying a few words in English, and then all of us shrugging and laughing, every day we're shown so much warmth and kindness. On the way home we go to a small village in the mountains to meet one of Mesud's friends Pere for coffee. Pere isn't in her house, so we go to the coffee shop to look for her. The village is old and beautiful, and like the other villages we've been to, the coffee shop is filled with old men laughing in deep conversation, they smile and nod at us. Pere isn't there either, so Mesud asks somebody and they all point us to where she's helping build a new coffee shop for the village. Everybody knows her, and it seems she's a bit of a village saint, helping maintain all the village houses, and she adopts the stray cats and dogs.

Back at the farm we turned some scrap wood we've found into little garden tables that we paint and arrange in secret places around the garden with chairs and lanterns and sculptures hanging from the trees.

We asked Jake,
'so in America, do you call it a tele?'.....
she looks confused,
'No, a phone.'

In the evening, Mustafa, one of the two boys who work on the farm, got the wood-oven outside our little workaway house fired up for us to cook pizzas. We made dough and tomato passata and aubergine mushroom spinach onion pepper concoctions to go on the top. We didn't have anything to cook them on so we used a cast-iron frying pan which seemed ok until we discovered we didn't have any oven gloves. But Nick did a fab job of being fire-master and they were deeelicious.

Wednesday evening Mesud took us out to meet some friends at a little fish restaurant in the fishing village Babakale. The delicious food was cooked by one man in a kitchen in the corner of the restaurant and the feta cheese was made that morning by a woman with us- a beautiful ballet dancer from Istanbul. A chef eating with us insisted that the calamari they serve in this restaurant is the best calamari he's tasted, in all of the world. It was pretty delicious, but to me calamari is calamari really innit. We're taught that the same type of fish can taste different in each country depending on at what point it's been caught during it's migration.. Jake drives the dark mountain drive back, Mesud has had one too many glasses of raqi. We drive past an old man hobbling along the side of the road in the middle of no-where. Mesud tells us he is a sheepherder on his way home so we pick him up and we drive him home. Home being the point which he asks us to stop, a point that seems just as in the middle of nowhere in the pitch-black mountains as the last point in the middle of nowhere in the pitch-black mountains.

The next day Mesud loans us his car and Jake, Nick and I go on a road-trip to Troy. We get stupidly lost and drive in a huge circle through the mountains, ending up back where we started, without finding Troy or the horse. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal we notice that the petrol tank is on empty and at each fork in the road we take lucky guesses which direction we choose will take us to a petrol station. In a remote village we attempt to ask some friendly villagers to point us in the direction of Troy. They do their best to explain that we're going in the opposite direction to Troy FRICKIN BRITISH AMERICAN TOURIST IDIOTS. We get there, eventually, and pay 15 Turkish Lira (about 5 British Pounds) to see some stones poking out of the ground, a lot of educated guesses, and coach loads of German tourists. If only we'd remembered that Troy was wiped out after all the love-jealous fighting. It's all about Assos, 5 Turkish Lira and your mind is blown.

On the way out of Troy we pick up two hitchhikers wanting to get to Assos, a Ukranian boy and his younger sister. The boy talks, non-stop, from the moment he gets into the car and realises he can speak English to us. 40 minutes later we arrive at Assos and know all about every country and every city and every town and every village he has visited along with at least 3 facts from each destination. They were lovely and extremely grateful for the ride, but the three of us breathe an exhausted sigh of relief as we wave goodbye. Nick announces that he think he might be sick from info head-fullness.

We get up early at the farm to walk the two HUGE dogs. It's like
trying to walk, on a chain, two badly trained horses that are equally
frightened and excited by absolutely everything. If they run, you run,
or fall and get dragged. The female pulled me arse-first into the
ditch, broke free and galloped down the track dragging the chain behind her.
Nick tried to rugby-tackle her at the same time as holding the big male
dog and ended up tangled in chains with his legs and arms bound
together and the dogs leaping all over the place, screaming for me
to hurry up and stop pissing laughing as I clambered out of
the ditch. We got pulled head-first inches from the river, after a frog,
and there was an incident with a herd of cows. There's also a 15 year
old grumpy Jack Russell who's favourite entertainment is biting the ankles of the
massive male horse dog as Nick tries to lead him out of the farm, the horse
dog flailing it's limbs, trying to climb onto Nick's shoulders out of reach
of the little dog's teeth.

We spend the days making sculptures for the garden from pieces of beautiful old metal
and driftwood that we've found around the farm. We walk the 2.5km dusty
track to the beach, past old sheep herders on donkeys and rocky fields of olive trees.
There's an amazing view across to Assos that looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park.
The water is freezing but obviously we swim. The farmers that pass in their
winter clothes laugh and look at us like we're just a bit silly.
The beach is always deserted, filled with amazing things that we cram into our bags
and lug back up the hill on our way home. We're going to have to do some stealth packing
when we fly home, or pay to check in another suitcase.
We paint a windmill and laugh so hard at Jake saying 'I went to the pantry at twelve fourty',
in a British accent.

Mesud is building other houses on the land for friends, and on Saturday night we
go for dinner in Assos with the architect and one of the French couples who will
be moving in. We have a lovely evening, my favourite conversation by far
is the one I have with the restaurant dog. I fall totally in love with him and I know he feels the
same way as he breaks through the door, sprints out and pounces on me as we leave.

We begin to realise that there are still undertones of male dominance over women.
We have dinner with friends of Mesud- mostly men with successful businesses, 'this is my
friend, he's a well known graphic designer, this is my friend, he owns
a hip steakhouse in old town, this is my friend, he's a chef in
new York.'blahblahblahblah. Nick is addressed far more in conversation,
and compliments of all of our cooking are addressed to him.
They presume he must be the head chef and has directed us less-able
women. The first few times we encountered this I spent the evening
growing in silent fury, snarling from my side of the table. Lots of
telling glances between Jake and I, feeling like our opinions aren't
valued. Nick's empty glass of raqi is offered re-fills as the men
share it around the table but our empty glasses are ignored. Our quiet
irritation doesn't last long and we're suppressing uncontrollable fits
of giggles. We inject our opinions into their conversation, laddishly
bashing down our raqi when they don't include us.
The men are actually very nice, (apart from the loud, chauvinistic, coke-snorting
south african guy, not him), polite and kind to us all. Some show lesser degrees
of the subtle cultural sexism than others,and Mesud seems to have forgotten
the sexism almost entirely, minus the odd sarcastic joke.
He also has many friends in powerful and funny women. I know
it's a long-stemming cultural/religion thing, a belief that the women simply
could not be as powerful and independant as the men, and it's not meant
maliciously or to specifically degrade women. Here the sexism has more of
an excuse of cultural naivety, which to us makes it more OK than the sexism
you can still experience in the UK.
Also, I feel like in the UK, females behaving like powerful men in certain
circles of society can be responded to with further attempts to put them
down, whereas here, as our independance and opinions become more apparent
we're responded to with interest and polite intrigue. It's nice.

On Sunday we cook a traditional English roast dinner for Mesud and friends.
One of the boys who helps maintain the garden for Mesud provides us with
some lamb and organic veggies grown in his village nearby. We find paths lined
with rosemary and mint in the garden, and we make crispy roast potatoes,
honey glazed carrots, leeks in butter and garlic, mint sauce and gravy, and
an apple crumble for desert. It goes down pretty bloody well.

We get up early and explore the Grand Bazaar. A huge sprawling market
selling anything and everything, lots of gold and leather, lots of
hilarious attempts by shopkeepers to bring us into their shop, all
assume we are a couple and not friends, with exclamations of 'nice
wife, nice life', Mesud thinks it is the easier option for us that
they presume we are married. I refrain from spending 300 euros on
pages from ancient books, beautiful writing and incredible hand-
painted illustrations of noah's ark with real painted gold bits on it.
Istanbul architecture is amazing, domes and spires of hundreds of
mosques, churches, synagogues. Steep cobbled streets lined with a miss-
match of 7 storey colonial style buildings, disused and crumbling,
climbing on top of eachother. The skyline is incredible. We walk
across one of the bridges, filled with fishermen, to the more
residential side of town. Exploring tiny alleyways, street art and
galleries, we find artist workshops open to the pavement. We follow an
old tram to a busy square on top of a hill to watch the sun go down
from a roof terrace cafe, and listen to the atmospheric call to prayer
projected from the mosques.

After two days we're having to make regular breaks for Turkish coffee.
It's sweet and thick, slowly brewed over a gentle heat, served with a
shot of marzipan liqueur, glass of lemon and water and a small Turkish

By day three, after we've met the other volunteer who's joining us,
we've learned to say 'hello, we'd like three Turkish coffees, medium
sugar, please?' in Turkish, which is probably the hardest language
we've ever tried to learn. The other volunteer is a 24 year old girl
called Jake (Jaqueline) from Santa Barbara. She's fab. Mesud drives us
to his flat. As we arrive, the art gallery on the ground floor has an
opening, into which we're welcomed with wine and cheese and grapes and
we meet the gallery owner and artists who all speak English and we
feel awful for knowing so little Turkish.

Mesud takes us for dinner with some friends of his at a fish
restaurant on the river. He is warmly welcomed by the waiting staff
who clearly know him, and during dinner the chef and the owner come to
the table to say hello and welcome Mesud.
Tonight is our first proper experience of Turkish food culture. Food
seems to appear endlessly, a meze platter of babaganoush, feta,
olives, breads, almonds in ice, marinated seabass, calamari, spinach,
mange tout, butter beans, all cooked in different sauces, all
ridiculously delicious. Whenever a dish is empty it is replaced with
something new to taste. We have the traditional Turkish drink of raqi-
tall thin glasses, aniseed spirit which goes cloudly when it is topped
with water and ice. Whenever our glasses get to near empty they're
discretely topped up by the waiting staff. Jake, Nick and I realise we
have eaten everything on our plates before the others have even
properly started. Eating is much more casual here, the food is
definitely more of an accompaniment to the conversation. We have to make
a conscious effort to eat slowly and force ourselves to put down our
knives and forks every now and then. We're so full, and then we're
told that was just the starter. Luckily the main course is just one
beautifully cooked fish for us all to share. After a few more evenings
we realise that this is the norm, a huge variety of mainly vegetable
meze dishes to share, followed by a small piece of meat and a small Turkish desert,
Baklava or Halva, or a strange but amazing sweet melted cheese thing.

We meet Jake and Mesud at his cafe for breakfast, fresh fruit
smoothies, kiwi, orange, banana, haloumi, feta, walnuts and apricots,
olives, a fried egg, bread, Turkish sausage, cucumber with sun-dried
tomato paste filled with seeds, salad with pomegranate sauce, mint,
parsley, honey and quince jam and Turkish coffee. BLOODY FUCKING HELL.
It was sooooo good. We spend another day wandering the myserious
streets, I find some teeth in an antique shop to bring home, YES!! and
Jake gets diarrhea'd on by a bird, to the crying laughter of us and
the shopkeepers on the street around us.

We walk all over Istanbul trying to get to Mesud's flat. We realise
that our map is completely inaccurate. As we ask locals for directions,
they peer at our map with so little recognition they may aswell be
looking at a map of Liverpool. It's dark and cold and we eventually find
his apartment. It is worth the walk. A top floor grotto of a flat with
sloping ceilings, crammed with things, things from all over the
world. We have whisky and cuddle his 15year old jack Russell, he shows
us the fabric he designed for Troy and Harry Potter. He takes us out
for another wonderful dinner and drinks at some bars of his friends
around Istanbul.

The drive to Assos takes 5 hours and a ferry ride. We laugh a lot, and plan the weeks
ahead. We stop for coffee and he doesn't seem to have to pay at any of
the cafes. The farm is beautiful. On a hill in remote and beautiful rocky coastal
landscape, breathtaking panoramic sea views to the Greek island of Lesbos. He has a huge matt black
dome roof for his house, and a smaller separate stone house for guests and volunteers.
There are 5 dogs, 2 stone pizza ovens, hundreds of olive trees, 2 deckings,
a vegetable and herb garden.

On the first night we sit out on the decking, smoke 'some pots' as Mesud calls it.
Zero light pollution and the most mind-blowing view of more stars than I've ever seen
before. Head-fuck stars. Screams as we see a shooting one. WOOOO.

A two week stay in Turkey Lurkey for zero moneys. After hearing great
things about woofing, we found the websites helpX and workaway (https://www.helpx.net/ and http://www.workaway.info/). A
traveling trade system not determined by money. Each party benefits
fairly, getting what they need and want from the exchange, cutting out
the capitalist bollocks middle man. Trade in provision of skills, 4-5
hours per day of volunteer work in return for accommodation and food.
There's a huge choice of hosts in every country around the world, and
the work varies from milking cows in Germany to helping sail a ship
delivering medicines to remote islands of the pacific. A great deal of
the work revolves around helping set up Eco-farms, self-sustainable
villages, organic gardening, animal care, building work, in return for
a clean and comfortable place to sleep and 3 meals a day, often cooked
with veg grown on site. Workers also get the chance to learn new
skills in Eco-building and self-sustainable living, explore in free
time, and to immerse themselves in the cultural lifestyle of wherever

We decide on 17 days in Turkey during Easter holidays. Two weeks in
the ancient village Assos on the Aegean coast, followed by a few days
in Istanbul, couch surfing (another great website http://www.couchsurfing.org/). We
found a host needing help at an Eco-sanctuary, requiring garden work,
animal care, building, art works, cooking. He was a new host and
hadn't yet receieved any workers, therefore, no reviews. But it looked
perfect, and after a couple of brief semi-english emails, it was
agreed that he would collect us at 3:45pm, 20th March, Istanbul
airport, and all we need to bring is a nice bottle of 'rom'.

We scoured the Internet for the cheapest flights, British airways
there, easyjet back. A beautiful, clear day across europe, meant we
could see other planes in the sky with us, some seeming an
inappropriately short distance away. Nick tells me about the time his
auntie was on a plane and they peered out of the window to see a plane
crossing below them, so close that the pilot then appologises for a
fairly close crossing of flight paths. Later I'm squinting out of the window
and 'oh my GOD....'' flattening myself back against the chair,
grabbing arm rests, Nick leans over to see what I've seen out of the
window, stuffs his hand in his mouth to stifle his
'ohmygodfuckfuckingGODDDD'. A jumbo zooming along, 30 metres below us.
I think it makes most people a bit uneasy thinking about sitting in a hunk of metal being hurtled through nothingness by massive spinning blades that could decide they're done with spinning in one
direction and have a rest or start spinning the other way for a bit,
at any moment, and suddenly there's another big precarious metal
hurtling about in your nothingness space. Could not fricking handle
it. Alarmed "OH MY GOD" exclamations aren't appropriate plane
get thrown about in the turbulance from their dirty jet stream for a
while as we hurtle along together. From earth jet streams look like
harmless puffs of steam, i didn't realise they are actually black and
dirty and hang in the sky for miles too long. We landed, alive, as
with every flight i am overwhelmingly surprised by this and vow to
never get on a plane again.

Get our bags, hand over 10 British pounds for a visa and through the
exit to hundreds of staring faces with notice boards and names. With
no idea who or what we're looking for we edge along, standing out as
the only people in the room with blondeish hair. We're swept up by
Metin and his friend Fatma. He greets us with a 'You are late.' and we
awkwardly begin to blab apologies about plane delays and queues but
they smile and put their arms around us and kiss us on both cheeks.
They're calm and cool with warm eyes and smiles.

Mesud is in his 40s, speaks better English than we expected, he has a
hilarious dry sense of humour. He's a textile designer and owner of
two restaurants in Istanbul, and Fatma, who speaks English fluently,
is 30 and a Dora therapist, very beautiful and glamorous.
She warns us not to take his dark humour seriously.
He takes us to his cafe in the Old Town for food. It is
lovely, full of art and funky design pieces, with a corner for selling
his textiles. He tells us we can have anything we want from the menu.
We can't decide. We're brought stuffed aubergine and falafel. I start
clumsily spooning tzatziki over the aubergine, i notice him looking at
me. 'You're eating it wrong, darling.....'
Oh. ha ha ha.. Apparently you eat tzatziki like soup.

The food is delicious and Mesud laughs as we try to offer him money.
He asks if we mind staying a few days in Istanbul as he has some work
to finish before we head to the farm. This fits our plans perfectly as
we can use this as our Istanbul stint instead of finding a couch to
surf at the end of the holiday. He makes a phone call to a friend who
puts us up in his hotel for 3 nights, free of charge, breakfast
included. We've been in Istanbul just a few hours but it seems like
Mesud has friends in everyone, from all his cafe staff to an old man
on the street who sorts him out parking. Nothing is too much trouble.
We can't quite believe our luck.

Get a message when we do another one!

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