Inspiration: Snaps of Kech

Moorish charm peeking out through the palms,
An air of art deco framing the occasional gecko,
Lily pads and succulents, cacti gardens that defy season, only sweeten Jacques’ rendition of Eden.

A few photos from the time I visited Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.

Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan

Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan

Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan  Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan

Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan  Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan

Jardin Majorelle - photograph by Irnin Khan


Barcelona, You’ve Ruined Me.

They say you can never go home again.

When I left home for Barcelona nearly a year ago, I knew the tectonic plates in my life were shifting at a rapid pace, but what I couldn’t have foreseen is how homesick I would feel upon my return to Sydney.

The thing I miss now is the quiet. Here in Sydney, where I grew up and spent most of my formative years, my head is crowded. My mind and my heart are always a little on edge. For a city where travelling from one side to the other can take several hours, I can’t seem to sidestep minefields around every corner – that suburb where I had the awful job, that coffee shop where I traversed the most awkward date, the office building of that jerk I now wilfully avoid, the place where my heart broke for the first time.

I’m a realist. I know that everywhere I live, a new map of mines will surely follow in time. But still, it sure is refreshing to start anew and leave the minefield behind.

Since my return, I’ve felt more than a little uncomfortable trying to settle back into the life I’d adamantly left behind. My lack of comfort also probably stems from the drastic changes in my routine, social patterns and in the basic cultural atmosphere of Sydney.

Everyday habits have followed me back here, and unbeknownst to me; have infiltrated my most basic interactions. More than two months in now, I still keep making people uncomfortable when I’m greeting them, by going in for a second kiss on the cheek. When I rush to explain it’s a European habit, I know it sounds like the worst form of douchebaggery. I puzzle baristas by accidentally ordering in Spanish, and then quickly translating to ‘coffee with milk’ (leading to thinly veiled sniggering or eye-rolling, because coffee here comes with milk unless you specify otherwise). And maybe the most common of all, friends are constantly asking me what I’m asking them to “see” mid-conversation or in response to their questions.

They say you can never go home again. But they don’t tell you it’s because by the time you return, it no longer feels like your only home.

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona. Photo by Irnin KhanGaudi's House, Barcelona. Photo by Irnin KhanIK - Cathedral

29 April.

This day last year was a huge one for me. It was the catalyst for a shit-storm of firsts. This day last year, I moved to Turkey.

I hopped off the plane in Dalaman (with a dream and my cardigan), and looked out at my brave new world. It was early in the morning and the airport was scarcely staffed; mostly a steady slew of foreigners passing through. As I stood and waited at the baggage claim carousel, my worst nightmare came to fruition as person after person walked away with their bags and the belt stopped rotating. My suitcase was nowhere. I mentally cursed the self-important and rude guy at the Dhaka airport check-in and kept telling myself to not freak out. Luckily there were a few others in the same position and we were led over to the international terminal. I willfully ignored the lack of solution as we were told, “maybe your bags will be there, or…” When I saw my suitcase, it may have been the most emotional reunion between a person and inanimate object that airport has ever seen.

Moments later, I made my first friend in Turkey. Marina, a Russian woman who helped me find my way back to the domestic terminal and my car. The driver was like an amazing caricature straight out of a sitcom – wildly waving his arms around and running towards me, holding a sign with my name misspelled on it. I coerced him into giving Marina a ride into town with us, and spent the car ride learning about her life, her work, her husband, her sisters back in Russia. From time to time, she and the driver would speak to one another in Turkish, a language I hadn’t yet begun to learn. I looked out the window at the mountain ranges, the bluest water I had ever seen, the clear skies. I let it wash over me that this was my new reality.

I arrived at the guesthouse where I would be staying and was shown around by a girl who was clearly enamoured with this town. She was the one who had interviewed and corresponded with me, and something about her affable persona was just the most comforting thing to my slowly-building sensory overload. Later that afternoon, I sat on the terrace of the guesthouse, and with a view of the marina, started work on the graphics for a travel company. That night, sitting on this same terrace with a small group of the company’s employees, I ate Mexican food in Turkey. We sat at a long table, family-dinner style, and as we passed food back and forth, I suddenly missed my family terribly. I sat pensively, looking out at the quiet street and taking it all in. It was a lovely, balmy evening in Fethiye; I remember thinking to myself, don’t ever forget this ineffable feeling.

Many things happened over the course of my stay in Fethiye. I lived and learned a new culture. I questioned my entire way of thinking, my beliefs, my morality. I felt exhilarated, comforted, content, exhausted. And I felt what it meant to be truly homesick. I began to understand what cultural disparity actually was. I lived in the moment where I realized that I no longer felt so foreign. The point where I let myself sink into a place, and the place, in turn, sank into me. I fell in love; I fell in so much love. With people, with places, with memories, with food. I fell in love with the Mediterranean Sea and the gorgeous sunsets. There are friends I’ve made who I feel I will know forever; our time together, unforgettable. Travel-loves and travel-friends are different; you get to know each other quickly and intensely, and outside of any real context. My friends and I were bonded not only by the hardships of working for this travel company, but also by all of the joys of living in this charming small town.

The highs and lows were all extremes in Fethiye. I felt it all.

When I returned from Turkey, I didn’t know if I would ever be comfortable in my Sydney skin again and felt homesick for Fethiye. Today, one year later, I am on my second day of a new graphics job. For most of the day, I sat in what used to be a cafe (now a temporary office), working alongside just 3 other people. There’s no waterfront views, no humidity or sporting a constant sheen of sweat. No sea breeze or middle-of-the-day naps and catch up sessions with my bestie, followed by watching our daily episode of Dawson’s Creek. There is however, a calm. It’s lovely in its own way. I can no longer stay out all night with someone, talking about our dreams and hopes for the future, sitting by the water and watching the sunrise. Or walk next door and spend hours talking life and love with a friend, late into the nights, early into the mornings. But tonight I saw one of my favourite friends after work; we talked and laughed a million miles a minute. I realised just how much I will miss her when I leave here again. She makes my life brighter.

A year has passed. And I look forward to where I’ll be this time next year. Hopefully celebrating another hefty bundle of lessons and fond memories.

the marina   KabakSteevie   Fethiye life
mixed juice  Amir and Emre  SineadCarmen and Sinead   FiIsabella   the sea

Where does the toilet paper go?

A guide for handling your shit in Turkey

Over the course of the last summer, I had the unique pleasure of staying long-term in a guesthouse (a glorified hostel) on the south coast of Turkey. Whilst the charming town of Fethiye impressed upon me some of my fondest and most vivid memories of the summer, few are more imposing than the various bathroom stories I collected there.

One of the first things I was told upon checking in is that no toilet paper is to be placed in the toilets because “It’s Turkey!” I later found out it’s because the plumbing systems in that part of town consist of small pipes that are not equipped to process toilet paper on top of… other bodily excretions. I stared blankly and wondered, “then where does the toilet paper go?” and balked at my next thought of “am I about to be told that toilet paper is not to be used here??” Clearly the naïve, panicked thought process of a first time traveller. There was a small bin with a revolving lid next to the toilet for used toilet paper. My relief was stunted by the realisation that the bin would be emptied but once a day. It got worse the day I tried to push through used toilet paper and met resistance. The nastiest was seeing the wiped excretions of others peeking up at me from the overflowing bin.

At first, I worried about how I would manage to even remember. Flushing toilet paper is such an automated action, that I thought it would be quite the task to re-train myself to do otherwise. Luckily, the guesthouse owners had placed a reminder sign on the wall directly facing me as I sat on the pot. It wasn’t long before I realised that the signs had most likely surfaced after an epidemic of clogged pipes (something I had the distinct displeasure of being present for when it happened again and again).

There was a period where I would constantly find large wads of toilet paper floating in the bowl. I soon came to see this as the unimaginative cover for unflushed nuggets. As I began the ritual of repeated flushing, I couldn’t help but wonder… when did it become OK to leave your turd unattended in a toilet? You wouldn’t do it in your own home, so why was someone doing it in mine? Clearly one of the more philosophical questions that arose during my travels. I could understand perfectly well that this was what hostel-living would be like sometimes, but what I couldn’t get on board with was the fact that most of my innovative energy was now being expended upon finding new and improved ways of flushing away the poos of strangers.

Perhaps the only good thing that came out of this (aside from realising that my capacity for dealing with the gag-worthy was a lot higher than I’d ever have given myself credit for – self five!) is that I can now offer you this sage advice for dealing with your own shit, so others aren’t forced to do it for you and then mentally hex you with 7 years of bad luck… Not that I did this (I totally did).

1. Do NOT try to prod poo with the toilet brush. This just traps you with a faeces-infested brush. If you really feel that the brush must play a role, try using the other end to poke your nugget into the pipe or break it into pieces. Yes, this is a highly unsavoury act, but a hell of a lot easier than trying to covertly dispose of a toilet brush without getting caught out.

2. Depending on how patient you are, keep flushing in varying intervals. Sometimes, your patience will actually pay off. The rest of the time, at least you will have warned anyone waiting in line for the bathroom of what’s to come.

3. One thing that comes in surprisingly handy is the Turkish bathroom layout of showers over the toilet. One day, in a genius move against someone else’s stubborn excretions, I found myself resorting to using the detachable shower head to simultaneously disintegrate and flush the offending nuggets. Highly effective method with a 100% success rate.

Turkey toilet

One week in Fethiye, May 2013

According to my journal, all of these things happened sometime around my fourth week in Fethiye, Turkey:

1. I had my first baklava in Turkey (SO different to any baklava I’ve ever tasted before – this was much, much sweeter).

2. I fell in love with the Turkish pastries from a bakery just minutes from my workplace.

Pastries, Fethiye - IK

3. I indulged in a day of eating pide, lying on the beach, dipping in the ocean and lazy-but-stimulating post-swim towel-talk with an amazing new friend.

Pide, Fethiye - IK Oludeniz Beach, Fethiye - IK Oludeniz, Fethiye - IK

4. During an afternoon break from work, I ate the best fish sandwich inside a fishing boat and shopped at the weekly Tuesday market, where the shopkeepers (cat-)called me names like “Turkish Angel” and “Jennifer Lopez”.

Fish Sandwich, Fethiye - IK Fish Boat, Fethiye - IK Fishing Boat, Fethiye - IK

5. I was stunned into actually stopping for a street salesman. His line was, “Excuse me, are you from Bangladesh?” First time that has ever happened to me. EVER. And of course my mind immediately jumped to “Does he… KNOW ME somehow?! A friend of my dad perhaps??” Although my dad does know basically every Bengali person through maybe 4 degrees of separation max, I’m pretty certain this instance was that whole thing of living in a small town where everyone knows your name… and all your business!

6. I hiked to the Lycian tombs to see a truly breathtaking view of the sunset from there.

Tombs, Fethiye - IK Tombs, Fethiye - IK Sunset, Fethiye - IK

And an amazing week it was! I must admit, there are still many parts of me that are aching to be back in Turkey!

Life in Turkey

Dear Journal,
It is beautiful beyond compare here in Fethiye. There are puppies who sleep on the footpaths and men sitting on the boats in the marina who yell comments at you in turkish when you walk past. The weather is balmy but not stifling.

Up until the day before yesterday, I was living in a hostel where it is almost always buzzing. We would sit on the terrace in the evenings and enjoy the light breezes of spring. It is the perfect temperature for sitting outside, sipping on something ice-cold and letting your laughs trill out onto the marina.

Now I am living with another girl at her beautiful and quaint little house on the edge of old town, just a ten minute walk from my old abode. You walk up a set of winding stone steps and just when you’re about to lose your breath, you reach a ornate, metal gate in front of a blue door. The accents of blue run throughout the house. I was so overwhelmingly grateful to shower somewhere where the toilet is not under the shower head, that I almost began to weep.

During the days, I work mostly in solitude and feel surprised at my competence in getting the work done.

I think I might have fractured my arm in Bangladesh last week. I haven’t had it looked at yet because I was certain it would be okay by now.. but now I am getting quite scared.. why oh why didn’t I get insurance?

I am actually missing everything more than I thought I would.. never thought I would feel so homesick. I am missing all my family and friends, as well as my usual routines and activities. I’m trying to adjust as best I can. Everyday is a little easier than the last. And the panoramic views don’t hurt at all!


Birthday treats

Over the long weekend, I spent a day at the aquarium as a birthday treat with my fam. Best. Present. Ever. It was amazing and inspiring and about a hundred other adjectives!