Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Leaving Kusadasi For Paris

As a person that has never had a 2:15 am wakeup call before, maybe I would get used to it, but on this morning, it is brutal. Paul and I crawl out of bed and hit the shower....separately, before heading downstairs to grab a cab. The beautiful young ladies at the front desk not only called us a cab, but packed us breakfast as well. I assume they only did this because they like us. The cab ride to the Izmir airport is about an hour, but apparently our cab driver has only budgeted about 40 minutes, because he is going about 95 miles an hour on mountain roads. Paul falls asleep in the back, but I have a problem sleeping since I feel like these might be my last moments on earth. My favorite move was when he passed a guy who was going about 50 over a huge hill with about 2 meters of sight distance. Luckily, we survive, and get to the airport about 3:45. I promptly buy a 9 lira water to calm down the feeling of dodging death. Paul promptly falls asleep at the terminal. We board, and I fall asleep almost immediately. However, the plane ride is simply not long enough to enjoy the nap. We navigate our way to the the terminal for our flight to Paris, and again, Paul falls asleep. Paul has now slept in 5 different places in the last 3 hours: our hotel room, the cab, terminal in Izmir, the plane, and the terminal in Istanbul. He will no doubt make it 6 on the plane to Paris.

We land in Paris and head for the Metro. Once we find the RER B, a train pulls up right in front of me.....the doors do not open. A french woman laughs and pushes the button that opens the door. Paris 1, Drew 0. We transfer at Notre Dame onto RER C. When the RER C pulls up, I promptly push the button to open the door and I think I hear somebody in the background say "wow, that French-Irish guy is sweet".....whatever, that is fine with me. We then hop out at the closest station to our hotel. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly where our hotel is. Luckily, we grab a cab driver who is so nice and drives up right up to Hotel Muguet. It is super nice, and the lady at the counter is very receptive to my attempt to speak french. After throwing our stuff in our room, we head out to paint the town.

Our first objective is to grab lunch. We walk into a cute little cafe that is close to our hotel and I start up my massive french skills. Our waiter doesn't speak any English, which is perfect for me to attempt to speak poor French. It is actually pretty fun, and the locals seem to appreciate the effort. Paul orders some pasta, and I order a caesar salad. Both are excellent, and both aren't cheap. 58 Euros later, we head out down the road. Paris is awesome, but kind of expensive.

We wander down the road and see 3 different soccer games going on as we walk towards the Seine. I start to take pictures of just about everything. Unfortunately, it is overcast and pretty chilly, but it is beautiful nonetheless. As we wander down the streets of Paris, we run into this huge structure with a ton of people around it. We decide to check it out. Next thing we know, we are on the lift to the top floor of what people call the Eiffel Tower. The view of the city from up here is simply amazing. After snapping a bunch of pictures, I head inside to read about the history of the lift. The physics behinds the different lifts they have used is really fascinating (clavin).

We then head towards the Arc de Triomphe. After admiring the Arc, we walk down the Champs-Elysees (I don't know how to make the accent mark letters). It is so cool to just stroll down the avenue. Paul exchanges dollars for euros as an exchange place along the avenue, and I can't believe how badly they take him. He turns $80 into 46 Euros, ouch. We decide to sit at a cafe and people watch. After about an hour of absolutely fascinating people watching, we head back to the hotel.

It is getting to dinner time, so we decide to try and find something that we can bring back to our hotel and sit in the amazing patio area they have. We walk down the street and the weather is getting to be pretty amazing. The sunset over the city is pretty amazing. A kabob place catches my eye, and we dip in for some dinner. I get a huge plate of meat kabob with chips (fries) on the side. The guys love my French to the point where they are laughing because they love it so much.....not because I kinda suck at it. We stop in a local grocer on the way back and grab a nice bottle of wine to share on the patio....it is a date.

We get back to the hotel, and I ask them if they have a corkscrew. Immediately, one is in hand. I then ask about wine glasses, three different kinds are offered. Hotel Muguet is on top of their game. Paul and I sit on the patio and debrief about our day and the whole trip in general. It is nice to have a relaxing evening to take everything in. Full and exhausted, we head to bed. I stare out the window for about 20 minutes taking everything in for one last time before I retire to get ready for what will be a super long travel day tomorrow. Wow, what an amazing close to an amazing trip.

Still to come - Pics of Paris and then - Long travel day followed by closing thoughts

Drew In Paris

More Pics Kusadizzle Style

I know I posted the flying squirrel again, but I didn't want anybody to miss it. Also, the duct tape picture might seem kinda weird, but my simple mind kinda thought it was hilarious to have duct tape in one of the oldest cities in the Ottoman Empire. It is clearly holding the whole building together....

More Kusadishishian Pics

Last Day of Trip

We wake up on what will be the last day of the group trip, and all I can think about is parasailing. Joe, Jim, Brian, and myself hop on the fun water events boat and head out. Brian is gonna scuba dive which sounds amazing. He gets to swim through underwater caves and see all kinds of sweet animals; I am really wishing I was scuba certified. The tour guide speaks very broken English and doesn’t know how to say the word “seal” so he just puts his arms by his sides and makes the seal noise….it got the boat a good laugh.

I am first up on the parasailing, and I must say, the setup here is much better than my previous parasailing experiences. Growing up, my aunt and uncle had a parasail that we would use with their boat in Tennessee. Let’s just say that Carnes, TN is about 55-75 years behind most of the rest of the country. To use this parasail, you had to stand on shore about 60 yards from the water and when the driver gunned it, you had to run the 60 yards and then leap off the shore in hopes that the chute was full and you would lift off. Two main things can go wrong here leading to a couple uncomfortable scenarios. One, you can leap from the shore and the chute doesn’t have enough air leaving you to be dragging along the water for a couple seconds. Or two, the worse one by far, is that you trip before you get to the shoreline and you are dragged along the hard, rocky ground. Either way, pain ensues. This boat has the full setup where you just get slowly raised from the back of the boat. I must say, much less anxiety involved, but also much less adrenaline. Anyways, I contemplate taking my camera up with me since I theoretically won’t be getting wet, but I have gotten quite close to it over the past two weeks, so I decide against it. Once up there, it is just an amazing experience. You are high enough up to see miles and miles of the Aegean as well as all of the different small, old school communities that have been in Kusadasi for centuries. It is just amazing. All three of us comedown very satisfied with our 70 lira purchase. We then go to pick up Brian from his scuba caving experience. We are a little surprised by the lackadaisical attitude towards the scuba diving. There was no buoy put down to mark their entrance, and there was no set time we were coming to get them as it depended on our parasailing. However, we are able to find them pretty easily. Brian, who has been diving about 30 times, claims it was the second scariest dive he has ever had. The scariest being off the Reef in Australia after being separated from the group (umm….this kid wouldn’t have survived that). Apparently, it is pretty easy to get disoriented when you are not only underwater but inside underwater caves. Especially when your guide speaks absolutely no English. However, he said he got to see the seal, a giant eel, some lobsters, and a bunch of other marine life. It sounds amazing.

We head back to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the group. They are all lounging on the shoreline. I decide to take a quick break, and ask the waiter for a bira bira. My break end shortly thereafter when Voeltz and I are challenged to doubles ping pong. I figure, what the heck, I will play a couple games considering that the table is still on the coastline with a great view……14 games later, we have not lost, and we decide to retire on top. The 2nd to last game included a comeback from 20-13 down, so we are feeling pretty good about ourselves. I believe I have earned myself another bira bira. A group then heads off to rock jump again, but I decide to lay along the shore instead. My feet are still quite banged up from yesterdays rock jumping, and I am pretty sure I cannot get a better picture than the one I got of Voeltz’s flying squirrel. (entry #1 into photo contest). Although it will be hard to beat Phil’s picture of himself in his graduation gown (the 2nd years graduated while on the trip) on the back of a camel with the great pyramids in the background. The rock-jumping group gets back, and it sounds like I missed quite an adventure, darnit. Oh well, live and learn. We all take one last swim in the Aegean before heading up to get ready for dinner. Not sure if I mentioned this, but the Aegean is the saltiest water I have ever been in by a long shot. You stay afloat with little to no effort. On the downside, if you take some down the esophagus, it tastes about like a hearty helping of Peace’s cooking (old school LCA reference). So you have to be pretty careful not to swallow any. The plus side to that is the face people make when they do accidentally take some in.

We head up for dinner, and everybody showers and gets ready. Somewhere in there, I realize I am not in the least bit hungry, so I decide to stay back and pack up for Paul and my 3am departure. It turns out to be a good move as I am able to pack, make some phone calls, and get to bed by about 9pm. That allows me a whopping 5 hours of sleep before our wakeup call. I call down for the wakeup, and tell the front desk 2:10 please. She laughs pretty hard at this request. I think she is under the impression that I am getting woken up at that point to head out to the bars since they are open til 6. Not so, we have to get up to take an hour cab ride for 50 lira, then wiggle through airport security, and then onto a plane where we will be able to rest just long enough to be teased as the flight is about 55 minutes in the air. Oh well, I am sure I will be running on Parisian adrenaline by then. One last day of fun combined with a TON of traveling, and I will be back in the States!

Drew In Kusadasi

More Pics of Day 1 Kusadasi

First Full Day In Heaven

I wake up early on Day 2 in Kusadasi, and I walk out onto the balcony, and the sun is still coming up over the Aegean Sea. It is hard to believe the view that we have from our hotel room. We get dressed and head down to the lobby to head towards Ephesus…..I believe this puts my bus hours somewhere in the vicinity of 36 hours the past 2 weeks.

Ephesus is definitely a really cool place. We walk around all the remains of the old town that are still in the process of being restored. The town was estimated to have a population of about 150,000 based on the fact that the theater holds 25,000. Apparently the multiplier is about six based on the fact that only the head of the household could go to the theater. We get to walk into what are basically super old school “apartments,” very neat. We have seen a lot of really old stuff in the past 2 weeks, so this stuff seems pretty contemporary at this point. Actually, it is really neat, and very cool to think that the Aegean use to come all the way up to the edge of this town and is now the shoreline is about 20 miles away. All in all, very cool.

Next stop is a small museum on the edge of Ephesus. On the way in, Joe and I buy 1 lira handcrafted flutes. We figure this will be a good addition to Roberson Drive. We walk through the museum and see some artifacts that have been pulled out of the town. The group then grabs an Efes and sits out in the beautiful Kusadasi sun.

As soon as we get back to the hotel, we jump in our bathing suits and head down to the pool/Aegean. Paul and I swim around in the pool for a little bit and then the group decides to head down to the Sea. Most of the males in the group decide to go look for rocks to jump off of. We find a good one right off the bat that is about 8 feet with about 7 feet deep water to land in. We all do the feet first thing first, and then round two is a bit riskier. Everybody throws in a dive, and Voeltz decides to throw in a flying squirrel. I try my best to time the picture to get him whilst grabbing his ankles, but in the sun, I can’t tell what I’ve got. I find the nearest shade, and I immediately realized that the picture came out perfectly (above). Can’t wait to show Tim. We swim around the corner to see if there are any more rocks, and we find a group of kids jumping off a set that is more like 15 feet. Climbing up them is a huge pain in the feet, but well worth it. I don’t have my camera at this point since you had to swim to get there, but we all have a great time jumping from these a couple times. We then head back to the hotel as it is close to dinner time and all the swimming around has us good and hungry. (doner?!?)

Once back at the hotel, we all decide to clean up and meet in the lobby for dinner. Joe, Rob, and myself are all pretty set on getting what might be our last Doner Kabob, but the group tends to think we have had too many. So the three of us set off for Doner; we are not really sure where we will find it, but it is Turkey, and they seem to be everywhere. As it turns out, the closest place is about 2 miles; we find that out about 25 minutes after setting out down the road. Oh well, the weather is beautiful and the scenery is amazing. I grab myself two Doners and some chips (fries), and we set back out back towards the hotel. We stop on the way to grab some Efes, and Joe and I see that they have 5L minikegs for 20 lira. We get a couple of those since we invited the whole group back to our hotel room for drinks and good times. After hanging in our room for an hour or so, we decide to give the main bar street another try. We dip into a new club opening….about the opposite of my scene, but when in Kusadasi. I chameleon myself to the crowd as best as possible. We then try one more “pub” that happens to also pretty much be a club. Good times, but most of the crew heads back early to make sure to make the most of our last day tomorrow.

Once back at the hotel, Voeltz and I decide to go for a late night swim. Turns out, the pool gets cleaned at night and the chlorine is ridiculously strong….so the obvious move is to get a quick dip in the Aegean to rinse off. Great end to a great day. Getting kinda sad that tomorrow is our last day together, but I can’t wait to soak it up. This place really is amazing.

Drew In Kusadasi,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leaving Istanbul/Arriving in Kusadasi/Heaven

Last Day In Istanbul

Our last day in Istanbul involves free time in the morning, before we leave for the airport at 2. I pull myself out of bed early despite the sunrise ending to the night before. After splashing some cold water on my face, I am good to go. We decide to just walk around town without a clear direction, although I have a feeling gelato will play into the day at some point. Everybody gets some last minute souvenir buying in, and I get some much needed Starbucks. We head into an underground marketplace, and I grab a replacement set of sunglasses as I lost mine somewhere along the way. They are only 6 lira, and they say Rayban on the side….no doubt they are real. I have never seen more blatant rip offs than I have seen in Cairo and Istanbul; it is actually pretty funny. The “Rolex” that Joe bought fell off his wrist on day 2 of ownership. He wasn’t even doing anything; he was literally just standing there and it fell off his wrist. Oh well, live and learn. I think he is gonna mail it into Rolex to see if they will fix it. I head off with my new found sunglasses into the marketplace. After an hour or so browsing around, we decide to head back to the café near our hotel for a quick drink before leaving town.

When we walk out of the market, there are about 50 taksis, but for some reason, it is hard to find one that will take us up to our hotel. One guy tries to get us to get into a cab that is clearly on the road that will take us around our elbow to get there….nice try, we are smarter than that. Rob, Paul, and I hop into another cab and tell the guy “Mara Para Hotel.” He says “no problem.” I have been in this country long enough to know that “no problem” clearly means “that is no problem for me, but it is about to be a big problem for you.” 5 minutes later, we find ourselves in front of the Para Para Hotel, which is clearly not the Mara Para. “Oops” says the cab driver. I have a feeling he has pulled that one before. We finally get to the place we were shooting for, and it is 50 lira……the “smart” guys just got taken. Istanbul 1, KFBS 0. Oh well, we shove 42 lira at him and tell him that is all we got. He accepts this as he knows it really should have been about 15-20 lira. We can’t find the rest of the group at this point, so we just head back to the hotel. We meet up with the group at the Richmond, and everybody is very excited to headout to see what Kusadasi has to offer. As we start to walk towards the bus, I realize this is my last chance to get gelato at the best gelato place in the world. I run across the street, and of course this is the time in which there is a healthy line formed. I grab a double of crème caramel and mint, and I hurry towards the bus. Of course the bus isn’t where the bus has picked us up every single time we have ridden it in Istanbul. Great, Drew is left in Istanbul. I stand there contemplating my options for about 7 minutes before I hear Husam yelling at me that the bus is down a street. Once on the bus, it does a loop to get on the expressway and passes right by the normal meeting spot where I was standing…..pretty sure they did that just to freak me out.

Once in the Izmir airport, I pop on my sweet Raybans. I am mid conversation with Joe when they one of the arms just falls off. There was nothing that sparked this, it just fell off....amazing. 6 lira well spent. The flight to Izmir is about 40 minutes in the air, yet they serve us a meal anyways. I find this odd on such a short flight, but I soon find out that you have a total of about 156 seconds to eat this meal before they take it away from you. Oh well, it wasn’t Doner Kabob anyways, and it was going to clearly cause me to have to use utensils which Drew In Istanbul doesn’t like to do. We land in Izmir and head towards our new bus. I am over carrying my luggage at this point, so I just drag it behind me; wheeley luggage is in my immediate future. The weather is absolutely perfect for our bus ride to Kusadasi.

As we get close to Kusadasi, it is clear that this is gonna be absolutely amazing. We are driving in right as the sun is setting over the Aegean Sea (pics from last posting are from this ride in). It is amazing, and my Canon Photoshot, is the best medium to capture aforementioned amazingness. As it turns out, not only is Kusadasi amazing, but our hotel is absolutely 7 star…..it is ridiculous. We are greeted at the door of the hotel by a beautiful Kusadasian that has 25 Kusadelicious cocktails for us. Paul and I get up to our room and it has the most unreal view. We are on the top floor, so our balcony doesn’t have a ceiling to it, which is really nice. We head out to grab dinner at a seafood place that Husam recommends. Our waiter is hilarious, and we have a great crew at our table. Laughs are a dime a dozen. Voeltz, Micaela, and Joe order the sea bass which comes with a face on it. Micaela promptly digs for the vertebrae and rips out the whole spinal cord….that is how we do it in the north. The meal ends with our waiter coming over to tell us a Turkish joke. It is a funny joke, but really it is all in the way he delivers it. He giggles the whole time he tells it, so we are never really sure when the punchline is coming. After that, we head to the “bar street” This street is slightly annoying as every bar has a guy that stands out front and begs you to come in to their bar. We settle on a bar that has a guy who introduces himself as Mr. Bean. He is actually freakishly like Mr. Bean in many ways. After serving us drinks, he offers up a Turkish joke. He tells the same exact joke that we just heard…..apparently this joke is very popular in Turkey. After one drink here, we head to the parallel street that has dancing. It is just a street full of clubs….not really our thing. The thing that disturbs me the most is that most of the clubs have Irish pub names with techno playing. Lame. Oh well, we head back early as we are hitting up Ephesus tomorrow morning. It was the 2nd biggest city in the Ottoman Empire and it has a ton of Christian history; it should be interesting. Parasailing is in my near future….

Drew In Kusadasi,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pics In Turkey

Day 7 - Last Day in Ish Stan Poli

We have a long drive to the Ford Motor Company plant this morning, so we have to be down in the lobby by 6:00am. Everybody is dragging a bit, but the bright light is that we have a 2 hour bus ride for crucial sleep time. I make an amazing discovery on the bus that if you are only 68 inches, you happen to fit perfectly in the fetal position in the bus seat. My neck disagrees about this being a good discovery.

We get to the Ford plant, and it is an impressive compound. The first guy talks to us about Ford Otoman (name of turkey wing of this bankrupt company) as a general overview. We then get a lady to tell us how HR works in FMC Turkey. She claims that they get inflation based raises, but the economics guy said that inflation was about 50%, so I can't imagine they are doubling their salaries and then some every two years. The next guy that speaks is probably the 2nd guy in the Turkish Mafia. His accent and facial expressions are absolutely priceless. I will attempt to do them when I get back in the states, but it will do no justice to how awesome this guy was. He is on top of his shit and answers some tough questions we throw at him, but nobody has answered my question of how the high inflation kills both wage control and Ford Financing. Btw, everytime I ask a question, I have to worry about Simpleton Jim looking over at me and saying "clavin" to reinforce that I am a dork. Simpleton American Jim.....

We get back to the hotel and everybody decides to relax for a bit before we go to a group dinner on the Bosphorus. The place we go to dinner is pretty nice. Although restaurants on the Bosphorus have two selling points......a) the weather is amazing b) the view is amazing. We are sitting inside with no view, so we are not taking advantage of either one of those. While this is disappointing, our end of the table manages to entertain itself pretty well. While rehashing stories of the trip, we keep ourselves in constant laughter. We then walk to a small cafe where we can sit and digest/relax. A young kid comes up selling roses and we all point to Jim as the guy to sell to. Simpleton Jim yells "We Are" the kid on cue yells "We Are" and Jim yells "Penn State" the kid, in perfect English, yells "Penn State" It is pretty damn cute, and of course it sells Simpleton American Jim. He gives the kid 5 lira and gets a picture in which this kid poses like it is far from his first rodeo.....Turkish lady slayer. As he walks down the alley, the kid yells "Penn State"......should have yelled Iowa/USC, but whatever.

After relaxing at the Cafe, I push for an Irish/English Pub of some sort. We run into a guy who sells us to come into his joint, and for some reason, he is hailed as "Turkish Drew" He has an American Gladiator/Mad Max type outfit on and he is damn near hilarious. He walks us up to what is pretty much our own little private room and claims that acoustic guitar playing will happen. He is combining tables and I meet the only other two people in this room. They are super nice and so excited to hear us do "karaoke"......we were uninformed that us singing was supposed to happen. "Turkish Drew" gets up on stage and starts singing different songs from the book.....I wish I could put into words how funny this way, but it really is not possible. He literally sings, acapella, Nothing Else Matters, and he is not good...... However, the real artist then comes up and he sings somes american classics along with some pretty sweet Turkish songs. Our group then decides to pressure Joe into singing a song. This guy can only play songs that take 4 or less chords, so Joe settles on Losing My Religion. Joe knocks it out of the park, so I decide to give it a shot. I give what anbody would only call a mediocre performance of Every Breath You Take. Joe then follows is up with some solid Pink Floyd.....this bar is right up my alley, but everybody wants to go home

I have already decided that I am going to see the sunset, regardless of companionship. Brian tells me that he wants to join me.....I tell him many times that he doesn't have to do that, but he claims to really want to. As it turns out, Brian is all about it. He is the charasmatic go getter that fuels the whole project. We get down to the docks around 4:30, and we meet some pretty awesome locals. We party with them, but they don't really seem to get my strong desire to see the sunrise. Regardless, I want to see the sunrise. As I watch the sunrise over the Bosphorus, I realize that this trip is even more amazing than I first understood.

We then head back up to the hotel. I pass Tim on the way into the hotel. He is up and getting a morning coffee as I am heading to bed. I tell him this "I can catch up on sleep whenever I want, I am not gonna be back in Istanbul to watch the sunrise for at least 3-4 years." I view sleep on big/long trips as time that could be spent doing something rad. Opportunity cost is huge, just ask EVW.

So my night ended watching an amazing sunset over the Bosphorus Strait with a classmate whose wife is 7 months pregnant (soaking it up Mr. Sarah Conner). It was amazing, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Btw, I love the Turkish flag, and it shows

Day 6 and 7 - 2nd Day In Constantinople (Ish Stan Poli)

The alarm clock comes early on Day #2 in Istanbul given my late night the night before, but I get myself out of bed and into the shower. 10 minutes later, I am on the way down to the bus, Starbucks in hand, and smile on my face. We have 3 companies to visit today, and the first one is a private equity firm in Turkey. Unfortunately, the kabobs have found their newest victim as Paul comes down to the lobby looking like he just got punched in the gut. However, he votes to fight on. As we are waiting on the corner for the bus, Paul runs into the closest restroom and comes out having changed his gameplan…..he heads back to the hotel. I am scared…..

We pull up to the building, and I really can’t believe the office building that this company has. It is located almost directly under the EurAsia bridge right on the Bosphorus. We file into a conference room that has a ridiculous view of the water. This causes a slight problem as I have to fight to pay attention while huge boats go by in the background. The name of the company is Turkven, and they are the first private equity firm to originate in Turkey. They open with a slideshow of interesting Turkish facts/history, and it is really interesting. A lot of really cool stuff happened in Turkey back in the day….who knew. After that, we have a couple speakers that are very good. The last lady grew up in Turkey, but just graduated from Harvard’s MBA program. She is very interesting, and her presentation is very educational on how they run their fund. After the presentations, we have coffee and tea out on their patio area. It is unreal; their view is just incredible. I chat with the lady that graduated from HBS about the Boston area while sipping on tea and checking out the Bosphorus…..worse days have happened than this.

The next company we visit is ABB. They are a huge energy company that has a facility in Turkey. We walk into their huge conference room and they have setout plates of goodies for us. They are interesting, but I try them all. Some of them are amazing, some of them get the scrunchy face and a quick shot of cola turka. After the president of ABB Turkey speaks, we head out for a tour of the plant. We walk into the facility and there is absolutely nothing going on……they are apparently on a tea break. However, it is still cool to see all the equipment, but I am not really sure what most of it is. Rob walks around like a little kid since he knows all of this stuff from working at GE. I feel like giving him a weggie and stealing his lunch money, but I refrain as he is taller than I am.

The last visit of the day is to the biggest private university in Turkey, Koc (coach) University. It is pretty much amazing. They have a huge campus with just about all the amenities. We get a lecture on the history and state of the Turkish economy from one of their professors before getting a quick mini tour. After that, we go into the Alumni Lounge for drinks and hanging out. As most of you know, I am a pretty big fan of hanging out, so this makes me happy. While in there, I meat Osgud who just so happens to be coming to Chapel Hill in the fall as an exchange student. I give him my Alta Springs pitch, and we exchange information to get together when he gets into town. He seems like a nice guy, however exchange students have big shoes to fill as I take this time to give a shoutout to Gustav, Oskar, and Ooyven…..see you guys in January!!!

We head out of Koc around 6:30, and Tim has arranged a boat for us as the mode of transportation home. The boat is much nicer than we all expected as he described it as a dinghy. However, it is a pretty nice boat with two levels and 4 cases of Efes tall boys. The sun is setting as we head out into the Bosphorus…..are you kidding me? Everybody is snapping pictures like crazy tourists, sipping on Efes, and laughing up a storm. It is a pretty awesome time. Unfortunately, the boat was going faster than expected, so the end of our boat ride comes a bit too early. As a result, we have plenty of beer left so everybody packs up their UNC backpacks and heads to the bus. When we get back to the hotel, we are all very hungry and very sleepy. I decide to fight much needed sleep to grab yet another Doner kabob with Joe. Yet again, my kabob is amazing…..I follow it up with some of the most amazing gelato in the world. I have not had gelato in very many places (Highlands and Istanbul), but I feel confident making that statement. I get the Crème Caramel….simply amazing. They do not however have doggie gelato…..definitely a strike against, but still amazing.

At this point, I am a walking zombie. I really believe that if I stop moving, I will just fall face first in the street. We head back to the hotel and close out our evening relatively early. It has been a long, amazing day, but I am so ready to be horizontal. I lie down and fall sleep about 18 seconds later. Another day down in Istanbul…..can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!! 6am start…..

Drew In Istanbul

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 6 - Afternoon Evening In Istanbul

The cultural tour of Istanbul started out with a stop at the Blue Mosque. The streets around the Blue Mosque are crazy, so our bus driver is forced to a parallel park a 60 passenger van. It was pretty damn impressive. Istanbul has started out hot. Walking up to the Blue Mosque is pretty breathtaking. We get to the front, and find out that those of us in shorts must put on skirts that cover our legs. I am not gonna lie, it looks pretty good on me; pictures to follow. Inside the Mosque, Husam walks us around while giving us stories and history on each spot. The architech/engineer that designed it sounds pretty amazing. Since everybody has to face Mecca while praying, the head prayer leader will have his back to the rest of the mosque. However, this engineer did three things to nullify that problem. 1) He designed an underground tunnel like system where the sound would go down under ground and come back up behind the people praying. 2) He designed the corners of the building in such a way to funnel all of the sound into the main prayer area 3) In the very top dome, he installed empty jars with a drum-like cover inside the walls that amplified the sound and shot it down into the middle area. All around impressive for the 1200s. Apparently, he was the first person to use this method that is still used in opera houses.

After leaving the Blue Mosque, we go over to an old underground Cistern. This is a huge underground waterway where fresh water is collected and then dispersed all over the city. It is pretty darn cool. Next, we head over to the Grand Bazaar. This is Istanbul's largest marketplace. It is similar to Egypt's markets except for a couple key things a) we dont have 5 armed guards with us b) people are about 90% less aggressive on getting you to come look at their stuff c) everybody is turkish and not egyptian d) i have yet to be called Obama. One thing that is similar is that if you ask somebody if they have something, they will say no problem just to get you in the store even though they have nothing remotely close to what you asked for. We asked a guy if he had t-shirts, he said no problem, and then led us to his carpet store. I immediately gravitate to a store that has a pretty sweet Turkish track suit. The guy calls me into the back to look at sizes....it is similar to Egypt in the way that once you are in the back, you are purchasing the item, it is now just a matter of price. He offers it to me for 50 lira. He has to mix and match sizes of pants and the top and I finally get it for 28 lira, which I honestly think is well worth it (picture to come). This will be worn many times at Roberson Dr. I told Joe that on days when he wakes up and I am in the Turkish track suit, it means good times ahead.

Joe and I have been counting the minutes until we can get a Turkish Doner Kabob, so we find a cart that has them. Joe told me to be prepared for something life altering, but there was no way to prepare for this. They put french fries in the kabob with thinly sliced meat and then press it in a quesadilla like thingy (not feeling like a wordsmith today). I have to sit down...it is amazing. I make a statement that I am pretty sure I will go through Istanbul using no utensils as this is all I need; results to follow. We then sit down at an outside cafe and order biras (beer). The phrase Bira, Bira goes a long way in this country. The man says he "no problem" so we sit down. About 5 minutes later, we are craving visual evidence that this man actually has beer and isn't just gonna sell us something else. Sure enough, out he comes with 6 Efes Pilser. This stuff is delicious, and it will not be the last one we have on the trip. We ask him how much, but it is after we have already drank half the pint, so of course we are at his mercy. He ways 6 lira, and we negotiate 2 for 10. EVERYTHING is a negotiation....menus with prices are rare. I run to the restroom real quick before we head to the hotel only to find that I don't have a lira to pay to use it...wonderful. Oh well, to the Richmond.

The bus drops us off about 200 yards from the hotel, because it can't go up the alleys to get there. The hotel itself is unimpressive compared to the Sofitel, but we knew that would be the case. And, its location can't be beat. We are right in the middle of town. We get settled and then 8 of us (including our professor host) head to an Irish pub that we saw coming in. I of course pushed this as I favor Irish pubs and plan to see some of them in Boston. The pub is great, but there are a couple things that are odd: a) they dont have guinness b) they dont have jameson c) they are playing ronan keating as we walk in. The music was not in any way normal for an Irish pub, but the place is really cool looking, and we are having a great time. After a drink at the pub, we go trolling for dinner. There is an alleyway that has a ridiculous amount of restaurants, so we dip down there. We find a pretty nice, upscale turkish place to hop into. After some appetizers, Jim, Micaela, and myself decide we have to try Rake while we are in Turkey. Rake (ra-kay) is a licorice flavored liquor that apparently everybody in Turkey drinks.....when in Turkey....So we give it a shot. They bring us the equivalent of about 3 shots, but whatever, that is fine. Jim takes his all at once and makes a face normally saved for hernia exams and old school keystone commercials. I am now a bit worried. After drinking mine, I have decided that I am glad I tried it, but I don't plan on making it a common occurrence. Dinner was pretty good, and we were sitting on the top of the building, so the view was amazing. It is getting late, so we decide to call it a night and head back to the Richmond.

It is about 11:30 when we get back to the Richmond for the night. I change into my track suit pants and my new Rake t-shirt and sit down to send out emails. After a couple skypes and a couple emails, I get restless and decide to hit the streets for some roasted corn. While walking around with my corn, I see people dancing in the alley to a live band, so I decide to check it out. I sit at a table and order an Efes while I watch the party. I stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist in this outfit, but whatever. After a couple minutes, a young guy grabs me and tosses me into the middle of the dance party. I of course throw my moves around as if I am a natural born Turk. He then then invites me to sit with them and have a drink. They are undergrad students at a university nearby. They spreak pretty decent English. They decide to leave to go to a club, and I stick behind and end up finding a group of about 7 guys to hangout with. They are all alot of fun, and they teach me some key Turkish words and phrases. We do rounds of Rake (I know I wasnt gonna do it again, but these guys are so much fun). After a couple rounds of Rake and some Turkish drinking songs (and some more dancing), they decide to go to a place to drink and watch the sunrise. As tempting as this is, it is 4:30, and I have to be up and dressed by 8, so I split from them. I get their contact information, as I know I will want to hangout with them Wednesday night when we have a free evening. Facebook friended them, and we are in business. What an amazing first night. I am so glad that I wandered around the streets, as I just don't feel like there is any better way to get the feel of the people than to just get out and hangout with them. Everybody asks me if I am from Ireland...I wish I knew enough Irish (or any) to say yes, but Obama it is. Anyways, an amazing first night in Istanbul!!! Pictures to come

Drew In Istanbul

Day 6 - Heading To Istanbul/Constantinople

Day 6 started early as we have a 10:45 flight out of Cairo to Istanbul. Everybody meets down for breakfast at 6am for a 6:30 departure from the Sofitel Gezirah. It is bittersweet as we have all enjoyed our time in Cairo immensely. In addition, we know that it will be a long time before any of us stay in a hotel as nice as this one again. Amazing views of the Nile, marble everywhere, sweet guard dogs.....all of it was amazing. However, we are so anxious to get to Istanbul. I see Joe at breakfast, and he looks a bit rough. Apparently the street kabob is getting the best of him. This is disturbing to Paul and myself for obvious reasons.

Getting to the airport goes smoothly, and we all get to the gate pretty quickly. We stop in the Americanized food court and grab McDonald's as we wait for our plane. I look over at Joe and I ask him "how are you doing?" His response....."I am on the brink of disaster. As a preemptive manner, I grab one of Rob's Cipros as it knocked his pain out pretty quickly. I get on the plane, and about 3 minutes later, I am completely passed out. I get woken up for the dinner service, spend 6-8 minutes eating, and immediately fall back asleep. When I wake up, I am on the runway in Istanbul.....bring it on!

We grab our bags and meet up with our new guide, Husam (scarily similar to Essam). His teeth are an interesting color and aren't what I would call straight, but he seems like a lot of fun. We hop on the bus and headout immediately on our culture tour. Driving down the road is simply amazing. The first thing I notice is that there are traffic lights and that people actually stop at them.....astonishing. The coastline to our right is simply stunning. The water in this country is amazing. I am blown away by the views, and I get more and more excited about our trip here....

Culture tour to come

Drew In Istanbul

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Come

I can't believe I made it all day today after the Turkish night I had last night. I will post that story and others tomorrow as I have to get to bed now. Hope you enjoy the pics of Joe, Jim, and I in our robes in Cairo......simpletons

Day 5 in Egypt

Day 5 in the land of the Nile was another company visit day for the KFBSers. I tried no hybrid meats, as I figured strawberries would do me right. I also got myself an omelet from what we have all so callously referred to as the Omelet Nazi. I ask him for an omelet with onions and cheese. Paul then asks him for onions and ham......first, I am pretty sure they dont have ham, second, I want ham. So I ask him for ham....he wags his finger at me and says very sternly "No Ham For You!" Ok then.

We then take off for our company visits. The first company we visit is a microfinance company in a small suburb of Cairo. It is run out of a small house, by a pretty sweet guy that is straight out of the Cairation mafia. The company was originally funded by the Egyptian government, but it is now self sustaining. They make small loans to Egyptian entrepreneurs that are anywhere from 1,000 pounds ($167) to 10M pounds ($1.7M). However, most of their loans are less than 10,000 pounds. They charge a lot of interest, but most of the loans are paid back in a very short amount of time. He claims the default rate is only 2%, but I think he is counting loans he has to take to court as "good" and they write off a lot that they dont count as "bad" Anyways, he is a super bright guy, and it is an amazingly interesting business. Maybe the most interesting of the companies we have visited just from an "i have never seen this before" standpoint.

Next stop....IBM Cairo. Go Big Blue! We have a long bus ride ahead of us, but no worries. Essam is so damn funny, that the bus rides end up pretty entertaining. I will write out this story because I want to remember it, but it won't sound funny as you read it. However, it was the funninest thing to happen so far on this trip, and the hardest I have laughed in a while. Essam is passing out Pepsis and Pepsi Lights in a plastic bag and Susan leans down to look in the bag. As she does this, he brings the bag up and one of the cans slams into her face. It clearly hurts, and you can tell Essam feels bad, but instead of trying to apologize, he looks up and says "aww, you hurt my cans" The combination of the spontaneity/wittiniess, his accent, the fact that it was perfect comic relief, and his contagious laugh (up there with thorstads) had us all dying. There is no way to do it justice, but it truly was hilarious. Essam is the best. The other entertaining moment had to do with Rob running up to the front of the bus and throwing up in a trash can that he didnt even know was there. His original plan was to try and get the driver to stop....thank god there was a trash can there or the sequence of events might have gone

a) Rob throws up on Ahmed

b) Ahmed draws automatic weapon and puts 45 bullets into Rob's chest

c) Egypt trip ends early

Anyways, IBM Is pretty boring and uneventful. They act all excited that I worked for IBM In the states, but what they do at this plant is stuff I have no experience in whatsoever, so there really isnt anymore connection than if I had worked at Jiffy Lube before coming back to school. Oh well, the nanotechnology stuff is kinda cool. Joe asks a couple of the dorkiest questions I have ever heard, but at least he didn't ask them if they spoke Egyptian.

Our last stop for the day is Free Trade Egypt. This place sounds really cool. They have basically unionized handmade artisan crafts in Egypt. They have 40 different groups of artisans that handmake crafts, and they are basically their distributor. This has dramatically helped save the handmade craft business in Egypt by actually driving competitive prices for these goods instead of them just having to give them away. The woman in charge is so cool, and she is so bright. Then, we get to shop :). I have long since conceded that I am a sucker for these Egyptian goods, so I stock up on some cool stuff. They even have a handmade chutes and ladders board made out of cloth (i didnt buy that, dont worry), but if i said it didn't cross my mind, I would be lying. Joe and I then peruse down the street to find a store called "Drinkies" that we passed on the way. A case of 50 centiliter (17 ounce) beers is $24. yes sir. we were paying 35 pounds ($6.5) each at the hotel. Now we get them for $1 each....yes.

We get back to the hotel and we are all psyched for our last night in Cairo. Joe, Paul, and myself decide we are going to brave the street kabobs.....stomachs be damned. This is an even more interesting decision given that Rob just threw up on the bus and had to be sent home. Oh well, when in Cairo.....so we walk down the street, crossing through traffic like we are pros. I almost get hit by a car, and shake it off as only a true Cairoian would do. We stumble upon a street vendor that also has a storefront to sit down in. It is the smokiest place I have ever been in, but we really want kabobs. Paul and I order the Chicken Schewarma and Joe orders the Meat Schewarma....not sure I want something just called meat. We also get french fries. The meal is unbelievable, and I finish it up with a scoop of ice cream. To my very surprised delight, this is the best ice cream I have ever had. We shall see what the stomach does with street vendor kabobs and dairy.....but regardless, I did it, and I wouldnt trade it for anything.

Once back at the hotel, the group gets together to rehash the trip. All in all, Cairo has been unreal. I have learned so much about a country and a culture that I can honestly say I never thought I would. Our tour guides have just been out of control amazing. I have said it once, but I will say it again. I cannot believe how funny and lighthearted the Egyptians are. They have the most amazing senses of humor. I have laughed so much so far on this trip, and it is bonus as it was not something I was planning on. Thank you Egypt for having us. The impression left on Kenan Flagler is 100% positive. We have to wake up at like 6 for our flight the next day, so after chatting for a while, we all hit the hay. Everybody is ridiculously excited for Istanbul!!!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009