Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Blog Tour: Beneath the Smiling Moustache: Love and Catastrophe in Istanbul—How I Was Swept Off My Feet by a Turkish Doctor (and a Ten Tonne Bus) by Belinda Lara Robinson

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Beneath the Smiling Moustache: Love and Catastrophe in Istanbul—How I Was Swept Off My Feet by a Turkish Doctor (and a Ten Tonne Bus) by Belinda Lara Robinson. This tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a sweet guest post from the publisher. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Beneath the Smiling Moustache book cover
Title: Beneath the Smiling Moustache: Love and Catastrophe in Istanbul—How I Was Swept Off My Feet by a Turkish Doctor (and a Ten Tonne Bus)
Author: Belinda Lara Robinson
Publisher: Belinda Lara Robinson Book Trust
Publication Date: April 25th 2021
Print Length: 348 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction Travel Memoir

When twenty-two-year-old Belinda Robinson travels to Turkey in 1990 as a part of a backpacking trip through Europe, she’s looking for an exciting adventure steeped in culture and history. What she doesn’t expect, is an avalanche of catastrophes that threaten to dramatically derail her plans.

After a harrowing and traumatic accident with a bus in Istanbul, she finds herself alone in a foreign country, abandoned by a heartless Australian Government. This poignant story of courage, resilience and accidental love is a journey of surprise as Belinda encounters a procession of compassionate Turkish people, in the most bizarre situations.

Beneath the Smiling Moustache is a comical, inspiring true story of humanity at its best, offering a unique insight into the challenges of travelling alone as a young woman, at a time of rising tensions in the Middle East.

A mosque whizzed past on the right-hand side, then another. It seemed like there was hardly enough time to count one before the next was there.

The speedometer now passed one hundred and sixty.

And ahead the road forked. The car veered left. A billboard promoting life insurance loomed, then receded. I glanced over the front seat at George—knees pressed together, hand clutching the door handle—I felt kind of lucky to be sitting in the back.

CLANK! I heard a piercing screech of metal. My heart dropped. Sparks trailed behind us as the screeching noise grew louder and louder. ‘George, what THE HELL was that?’

‘Whaaaat … I can’t HEAR you, BELINDA.’

‘I said,’ now shouting, ‘WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT NOISE?’

‘The EXHAUST. I think we just lost the EXHAUST.’

‘Oh Lord, that can’t be good!’

The congested terrain slid past, this way and that.

The driver, unfazed by the mayhem surrounding us, casually reached for his packet of Marlboro that was tucked behind the sun visor.

Surprisingly, he offered George and then myself a cigarette. The act reminded me of a gesture usually expressed to some poor soul about to face a firing squad. Neither of us smoked—but if I was ever going to take up smoking, now was the perfect time. He then lit one for himself.

We were still on the move, and ahead was a red light at a five-way intersection, and we were not slowing down.

‘STOP, you mad bastard,’ George yelled. With no form of safety restraint, he strangely leant forward and rested his arms and forehead on the dash in the brace position used for crashlandings in aircraft.

I heaved myself up and groped the driver’s arm. ‘Stop! STOP!’

The brakes squealed. The car slowed. Adrenalin surged through me once again, and I let out a deep sigh.

The more he slowed, the more I realised how fast we’d been going. Halfway across the line, we came to an abrupt halt. I looked at the driver. He was now glaring at the red light as if he were the victim of some type of injustice.

When the lights turned green, we moved off the highway and began to plough our way through the hordes of people that filled a maze of narrow inner-city streets and tiny alleyways.

To my relief, the din of urban clatter was soon drowned out by the powerful vocals of the muezzin when he called the faithful to noon prayer. Across the entire city, the call, the Adhan, was amplified from the speakers positioned on each mosque’s set of soaring minarets. Delivered melodiously, this mysterious voice was as soothing on the nerves as a big, fat, glass of red wine.

As I clutched a door handle with one hand and fanned myself with my hat with the other, I sat silent, smiling with apprehension. I couldn’t help but think that it was going to take more than a prayer to get us safely across town. It was going to take a miracle
Belinda Lara Robinson author picture
Belinda Lara Robinson was born in Sydney in 1968 and from a young age was determined to see the greater world outside of her childhood home in Macquarie Fields, Australia. In adulthood this drive took her around the world, and she travelled extensively through the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Britain and the United States.

Everywhere she went, Belinda was determined to experience and empathize with cultures different to her own. In her early twenties, she saw the warmth and generosity of a foreign culture first-hand when she was cared for by Turkish people after being struck by a bus in Istanbul. The memory of that time stayed with her and forms a key part of her memoir, Beneath the Smiling Moustache.

Belinda was a fighter with a heart of gold. She was passionate and thoughtful and determined to share the lessons she’d learned from her travels along with her innate joy and positivity in life.

Beneath the Smiling Moustache is Belinda's legacy and was brought to publication by a group of devoted friends and family determined to see Belinda’s dying wish become a reality after she was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in 2018.

In 2021 I was approached by friends of the late Belinda Lara Robinson to help them realize her dying wish, which was to publish her memoir of the time her rollercoaster experience of visiting Istanbul as a young woman in the 90s.

I was living in Istanbul myself at the time—having settled there to wait out the pandemic after Australia locked its foreign residents out of the country—and was intrigued to learn about another Aussie woman’s experiences in a city I’d fallen madly in love with. After only a minutes of talking to Belinda’s friend Mark, hearing how vibrant and loving Belinda was, I knew I had to help.

Mark sent me Beneath the Smiling Moustache, and from the first page I was hooked. I recognized Istanbul immediately in the way Belinda described places that I walked past every day. She also talked about her love of the Turkish people with an openness I found charming. I could feel her personality and humor leaping off the page. I’d never met Belinda, but through reading her story, I felt like we would have definitely been friends.

Beneath the Smiling Moustache is not just a travel memoir, it’s also a tribute to a vivacious, incredible woman who was determined not to give in to the cancer that took her life until she finished writing it. As an author, I could relate to that.

If asked what my favorite part of Beneath the Smiling Moustache is, I’d say it’s the love behind the creation of the book, the love for Istanbul and its people that Belinda infused into her writing and the love of her friends and family that drove them to undergo the momentous task of realizing Belinda’s dream.

Beneath the Smiling Moustache is a brilliant story, but the story behind its creation makes it even more special.

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