beirut

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Turkey

Just waiting for the bus and have wifi so I am going to try and summarize the last several days in a few paragraphs.  It has been adventure right from the beginning.  My flight to Istanbul left at 2am in the morning.  Aside from booking a 5 day tour, I had barely looked at my Lonely Planet.  I knew I had to pay for a visa upon entry, but for some reason it slipped my mind when I got to the Kuwait airport.  After 4 hours of economy seat sleeping, I realized I probably didn’t have enough US cash to pay for my visa.  And of course the exchange office next to the visa booth was closed at 6am, when I arrived.  So I had to hand over my passport to the airport police while I was sent on a wild goose chase to find money.  Just in case anyone wonders, Turkey does NOT exchange Kuwaiti dinars.  And there is only one ATM in the airport which happens to be on the opposite side from where the gates are.  After 3 laps around the airport I had the $, but then couldn’t find my way back to where I left my passport.  I wanted to cry.  But no, I am an independent traveler!  I can do this!  An hour later I found my passport.  I had little hope that my hotel transit would still waiting for me on the other side.  And he wasn’t.

I eventually made it to the hotel only to find that they didn’t have my reservation.  Being that it was still fairly early in the morning, I had to wait until the tour company opened.  I was sooo tired.  Apparently the company had changed hotels (I’m not exactly sure how I was supposed to know this since nobody told me).  It was a bit of a rocky start.

By the time I settled into my hotel, I wasn’t sure if I should tempt fate and venture out for the afternoon. I decided to head to the Grand Bazaar.  While at the station,  I found a cute mother/daughter couple from Kazakhstan to tag along with for the train ride.  There is no way I would have made it there on my own.  I have no sense of direction and nothing is written in English here!  It killed me not to ask what they thought about the whole Kuwait/Borat anthem fiasco that occurred several weeks ago 🙂

The Bazaar was great.  Lots of shiny, pretty things to look at.  I wanted to buy some scarves for gifts and this seemed like a great place to get them.  My problem is that I hate the aggressive vendors who pounce in front of you as you walk by.  After an hour of dodging them I realized that if I was going to buy something I’d actually have to talk to one of them.  I did find one that wasn’t so pushy so I followed him to his store.  It bothered him that I refused to consider anything that wasn’t black and we spent more time arguing about this than anything else.  It was actually kind of fun.  I made my purchases and then we sat around and chatted for awhile.  He took me around to show me where the ATM was, where the best food was and gave me tips on what to spend on certain items.  The best part of the day was when I managed to find my way back to the hotel without getting lost.  I don’t get too much credit though because both of the transfers I had to make were at the end of the line-I had to get off :).  The location of my hotel was idiot proof.

The next little story is embarrassing and I am not going into details.  I have to mention it though because I will never forget it.  Long story short:  I thought I lost my iPhone.  It appeared that it was taken from my room.  I had left it in the safety deposit box in the closet (unlocked mind you).  After returning from breakfast, it was gone.  These are the people who helped me look for it:  myself, my lovely room mate Emma, hotel staff, tour guide and finally the POLICE.  Nobody could find it.  I was beside myself (to put it mildly).  The security cameras showed nobody went in the room.  We wondered about the window but we were on the 4th floor.  Well, 12 hrs later as I was packing to leave, guess what caught my eye in the box?  Yup.  It had been there the whole time.  It had fallen on its side and some how became caught in a little crack.  I will skip all the drama at the police station, calling Rogers and Mac etc.  Not to mention emotion Skype conversations to people back home.  At that point I knew I was ‘that’ person on the tour.  The annoying high maintenance one.  My goal was not to speak for the rest of the trip.  I also knew I was going to have to tip my guide well.

From Istanbul we went to Gallipoli, Troy, Kusadasi, Ephesus, Pamukkale.  I have posted pictures so I won’t go into detail.  My birthday was spent with my tour group which was nice.  We went to an Irish pub where I even had some cake.  My tour group was great.  I shared a room with the same girl the whole trip.  She was wonderful.

On day 6, I left the tour and headed south to Fethiye on my own.  I got my beach fix.  I went on what is called a 12 island cruise.  It lasted the whole day and is definitely a highlight of this trip.  It is so beautiful here.  We sailed around the islands making frequent stops to swim….had some beer and a couple naps.  Super day.  This part sounds bad but it wasn’t:  I ended up chatting with one of the Turkish guys who worked on the boat.  He took me out for Turkish pizza after the cruise.  He was 25 years old and teaching himself how to speak English.   The purpose of dinner was to work on his English.  No, I am not that naive but I felt pretty safe and he seemed pretty harmless.  After pizza, he showed me his personal boat where he lives and is starting up his own private tour business (the boat was in the middle of the main harbour, not some secluded spot.  I was safe).  He had been spending the past year working with an online English program.  We spent a couple hours going through the English dictionary.  I read words out loud and he had to provide the definition.  The best part was when I tried to read the Turkish words and he had to translate it into English.  I was a lot of fun and probably one of my less touristy experiences.  We made fun of the other people on the boat.  It was interesting to hear his perspective on the whole cruise business and tourists in general.   As the sun set I was on my way back to my pension, safe and sound.

I am now in Goreme, which is in Cappadocia.  It was a 10 hr night bus to get here but definitely worth the trip.  I am staying in a cave hotel.  I did a tour yesterday but have had enough of them.  I set off to do a small hike today in the valley.  My biggest fear was getting lost, which I didn’t!  I am such a chicken.  When I got to the point where I had to leave the pavement in order to head down the hill into the valley, I literally had to sit and convince myself I could do it.  I was armed with 2 different maps of the same trails (just in case one was wrong).  I made sure people from the hotel knew if I wasn’t back before dark they had to come find me.  I even told people I passed on the trail where I was staying in case they heard of some Canadian had gone missing….at least maybe they could point the search and rescue team in the right direction.  So all of this was probably a little overkill.  Halfway along the trail I found a little place that sold wine.  All I had really needed was a big glass of red wine.  After that, it was all good.

I head back to Istanbul tomorrow for a day and then back to Kuwait.  Turkey has been amazing.  Although I have spent the last half travelling solo, I haven’t really felt alone.  I have met some great people along the way.  I feel like the Australians and/or physiotherapists are taking over the world though because that is the majority of what people seem to be around here.

That was way more than a few paragraphs.  I will stop now.

Countdown

Time has flown by.  I only have 3 days left at work.  The project has organized a one day international symposium on heart failure which runs tomorrow.  I am looking forward to that.  Being able to attend is a little bonus at the end of my contract.  I almost wish I was here a little longer so I could see the clinic running on it’s own.  It is hard to leave halfway through this process.  My heart failure partner Ellen will be staying on for about another month before she heads back to Victoria.  From what I understand, the next step could be having a transplant nurse come out to do more teaching in that area.  Another nurse from Canada arrived about a week ago.  I used to work with Janell at the Foothills in CICU.  It has been so fun having her join the group.  She is living in the apartment next door to me.  There are so many of us in the building now, I almost feel like I am living in residence again.  I have been fortunate to be working with such a great group of people.  There are many nurses here who are keen and motivated to make this clinic a success.  I hope that what I have done will help get them on their way.

Outside of work, things have been a little strange.  I witnessed a mugging outside of our apartment one evening.  Several days later, our minivan passed a terrible accident. To make things worse, the next day as we were driving to work, we passed some cops standing over a body bag on the beach.  If bad things happen in three, we should be done.  All I have to say is I am thankful all of this didn’t happen in my first week of being here!

With Skype, BBM, Facebook and Face time I have kept in touch with almost everyone at home that I normally talk to.  I think this had a huge influence on how well I did with being away from home for 3 months.  Despite the time difference, I still had regular chats with everyone.  The only one I haven’t seen is Seven and seeing him is on the top of my list of things to do do when I get home!

I am going to miss all of my new friends.  I was SO LUCKY to have met Fatima (thank you Tami!).  I have added some pictures of one of the latest parties.  It was  a surprise birthday party….one of my goals was to wear an abaya at some point while I was here.  It was fun for about the first hour, then I was just plain hot.  I guess I wouldn’t make a very good Kuwaiti princess.

I leave for Turkey at the end of the week.  I will make a short stop in Beirut before heading home!  So that is about it.  I survived.  I even had fun.  I am so glad I didn’t let my fears stop me from doing this!