14/06/2012

Ten Things You Didn't (Care To) Know About Mut

Mut is in Mersin Province, which is not the same as "beach Mersin".
Since graduating from university, my entire working life has been spent in Turkey so I'm not sure about business practises elsewhere, but within a week of announcing my resignation with my useless, tight-fisted teaching-placement agency, I have been banished to the village of Mut (pop. 2000 [inc. goats]) to act out my contractually obliged summer camp work.

The missus is not happy. And why should she be? Our work agency told us we would be working in Mersin - that sunny, sea-side town where the scorching sky sizzles as it hits the Mediterranean sea. But as soon as we left the airport in Adana and boarded a coach destined to Mut ("that must be a suburb of Mersin" I dimly supposed) it turned out all was not as it seemed. Our local contact told us on the phone we would be there in about 4-5 hours, going north into the mountains. I called the company to tell them they could have at least warned us but got a typically infuriated reaction from the company's money man Sedat Bey. "What do you want me to do?" he cried, "You are still in the province of Mersin! Why are you making problems?". 

Sedat is like a crude caricature of a language-school owner in Turkey. He is around 40 years old, unmarried, rotund and spectacled. And of course, speaks no English. Seeing him, along with any of these shady figures, reminds me of what Chris Tucker said in Rush Hour 2: "Whenever there's a crime, there's always a rich White man waitin' for his cut". Just the next day after this fiasco, I was, not just for the third month in a row without payment for my extra hours, but not paid on time by a day. No biggie, the missus called the office in Istanbul at 1pm. The transcript went something like this:
(Above) Evliya Celebi was the last tourist
to come to Mut, circa 1680.


Missus: When is our payment coming?
Company: The schools have not made the payment to us yet, as soon as we get the money we forward it on to you
Missus: (bluffing) But I spoke to the school, they have made the payment
Company: NOT to foreign teachers they haven't!
Missus: That's not what they said
Comapany: Look, I am busy (bluffing) I will call you later - okay?! (hangs up)

Then, at 2pm I called back.

Disgruntled worker: Hey, when is our payment coming?
Company: We sent it to both of you.
Disgruntled worker: Oh really? When?
Company: An hour ago!

So that's how to get paid on time. As for the extra hours, they are coming when we complete this camp in eight day's time. So if we do the time, we get to come back to Istanbul and the collect the ransom, I mean, payment, and all get on with our lives. 

In the meantime we are just going to have to make the most of it, something the missus finds very Ned Flandersesque about me, but which I have to do because the last foreign teacher they had here was fired for drinking during class and I think the town drove him to it. Here are ten reasons why...

Ten things you didn't (care to) know about Mut:

10) Leaving Mut is officially one of the "most beautiful" drives in Turkey. In September 2011, the road connecting Mut with neighbouring coastal town Silifke, was named by Hürriyet Newspaper as the road with the 9th most beautiful view in Turkey, passing the latter town's late Roman castle, Alahan Monastery and rapid Göksu River which cuts through the valleys in a series of small water falls and rapids.

9) The town is famous for apricots. No matter how small and unknown an Anatolian town is to outsiders, it is required by Turkish law to delude itself into being known for something. Mut is no exception. It is famous for apricots. Apricots are quite nice.

8) The town is "famous" for its Gas Station, everything in it. The quickest way to get in and out of the town is via Atatürk Bulvarı. This will take you passed the "famous" ice cream shop, the "famous tantuni restaurant", the "famous" ceramic pots, and yes, the Shell Gas Station, which according to our contact at the school is, "very famous in Mut".

7) It has a Castle. Castles are cool. This one overlooks the entire valley from elevated slope above the bus station. It is also has some very interesting ancient Greek ruins, which are always staggering to see so far from Greece but just remind you how recent all this silly boxed-in nation-state business really is. Oh, but you can't go in to the castle because they are using it to store chairs.

6) Nice waterfall abounds. To find out more about the Yerköprü Şelalesi, the local council website has a documentary which runs infinite clips. Here is the waterfall at every angle you could ever imagine. 

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5) Two really old Sycamores. There is a nice shaded area with a cafe under two really old sycamore trees at the name-sake "Çınar Altı" park. You might think I'm being intentionally silly putting this in the Top Ten, but considering in 2010 Mut recorded the highest temperature in Turkey that year (46.7C!), this dusty grove is the difference between life and death for many a street animal.

That's a big flag, isn't it?
4) The Second Biggest Flag in Turkey. Layed out on a hill for all the town to see, in a big mosaic of painted stones is the biggest flag in Turkey, after the entrance to the Bosphorus at Çanakkale (Galipolli).

3) Lâl Mosque. The mosque is so old the architect is unknown, but it was renovated by a local govenor about three hundred years ago. Thus it is in need of a bit of a spring clean. It is pretty dusty, so wudu is recommended before and after prayer here. The surrounding area has some interesting old food stores from back in the day.

2) Evliya Çelebi passed here. Snipets and quotes from this 17th century travel writer's seminal collection of observations, or Seyahatnâme, have been used to make much later European travellers look like real boffins, although no-one has ever bothered to translate the whole thing. Evliya was known to have prayed in the mosque, having followed the coast all the way down from Istanbul on his way to Aleppo, Nablus, Medina and Mecca. He noted that the road (fleeing) away from Mut was one of the 9th most beautiful in the Ottoman Empire, and one of the most strangely exhilarating of his life.

1) Classic Cars. If you are interested in old Turkish cars, look no further. I have seen some of the beauties that manifested themselves when Turkey found itself briefly under international sanctions in the early 1980s. There are plenty of sturdy Şahins, some examples of Turkey's original home-brew, the Devrim and according to one mechanic I spoke to, at least one functioning Anadolu. Incredible given that these things are chewed up by cows for the most part - the base material of the car shell is hay.

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