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September « 2009 « Jocelyn Wong's Blog


Archive for September, 2009

post-marathon videos of the Jeju Superstar!

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Here are a couple videos that Hiro took of me right after I set a new marathon PR and won the women’s race at the Beautiful Jeju International Marathon.  Thank you Hiro!!

YouTube Preview Image

Note to Mom: please do not be alarmed at how skinny I look, I just ran a marathon while ingesting at most 500 calories of Gatorade.  Within ten minutes of this video clip I was eating fried chicken, fried sweet potatoes, chocolate cookies, and a big packet of mini red bean muffins.

Actually to be honest, I am slightly alarmed at how skinny I look.  Maybe Coach will make me eat some waffles now that I am approaching post-pubescent high school weight.

Before I had a chance to eat anything though, I graciously fulfilled my duties to my local fan club and signed some autographs!

YouTube Preview Image

After all, now I am not only Jeju ironman champion but Jeju marathon champion!  …make that the Beautiful Jeju International Marathon champion ;)

and just to clarify, you can’t blame me for that being the name of the race.  no, it’s not all going to my head!

Jeju Superstar :)

I love that Jeju loves having us here!

Sunday, September 27th, 2009
the feeling is mutual!

the feeling is mutual!

Well Jeju loves having us here, and I’m loving being here.

You see signs all over the island proclaiming their love for us!

they say it in Japanese and Chinese too

they say it in Japanese and Chinese too

It started with Ariel from the Jeju tourism office greeting me at the airport with flowers…for the second time actually!  The first time was in July when I raced the ironman here.

I look like @ss from the travel but isnt Ariel cute?

I look like @ss from the travel but isn't Ariel cute?

We have welcome banners by the Blue Hill House and one in the swimming pool.

ok we can forgive them for putting Lance on our banner.

ok we can forgive them for putting Lance on our banner.

The pool is a really sweet 50-meter pool.  And by sweet I mean really painful.

big sports complex housing our pool

big sports complex housing our pool

The roads have the best surfaces for riding on, not much traffic, and there’s always gorgeous scenery to keep your spirits high.

its a pretty bike-friendly island

it's a pretty bike-friendly island

gorgeous roads with gorgeous scenery

gorgeous roads with gorgeous scenery

lovely sights to see

lovely sights to see

Some of my favorite sessions are at the Marathon Center track.  I couldn’t believe they have both a big stadium with a main track, and another warm-up track right outside of it!  This was why I got confused on my first day–I knew there were two tracks, but didn’t see my teammates go inside the stadium.  I saw the warm-up track and thought “oh no…they are not here…they must be at the other track.  Wherever that is!”

the South Korean flag flies next to the Jeju Self-Governing Province flag

the South Korean national flag flies next to the Jeju Self-Governing Province flag

We had a film crew follow us around for a mini documentary.  Because we are V.I.P. triathlon superstars here!

1-2-3, yell Team TBB!

1-2-3, yell "Team TBB!"

They took us on a little shopping trip to the traditional market, where we got all kinds of special deals on fresh veggies.

hamming it up with the veggie ladies

hamming it up with the veggie ladies

The filming capped off with a team BBQ…Korean hospitality is pretty sweet!  And by sweet I mean delicious :)

not quite camera-ready

not quite camera-ready

with Seulgi, the director/producers interpreter, and Ariel

with Seulgi, the director/producer's interpreter, and Ariel

Needless to say I am enjoying being back on Jeju Island where I left with some very good memories back in July.  Every time I run by Jungmun beach, the water is beautiful but almost annoyingly flat.  No vomit-inducing waves like during race morning, so I’m sure my teammates think I am just a crap swimmer making stuff up.  Then again until I go under an hour I am just a crap swimmer, so no difference.

A lot of the roads we ride on are part of the ironman course, so that always makes me smile when I see the mile markers.  And we go by the World Cup stadium on the way to track workouts–where the finish line of my first triathlon win was!

Sometimes when people stare and whisper at me, surely they are saying “hey isn’t that the girl that won the ironman here??”  Well either that or “that girl has really cool hair.  and she’s super tall.”  OK maybe I am getting a big head, but at the track a week ago I was actually greeted as “Hello, Jeju ironman champion!”  Turns out it was local pro triathlete Cho, who had been also raced in July and won it the previous year.

Then we went to a team dinner last weekend at a restaurant and the owner exclaimed to me “oh welcome back!  Long time no see!”  He remembered me from the race too!

I also found out I have a picture in one of the national sports magazines here–it’s the Korean Sports Promotion Foundation’s monthly publication and there’s a nice write-up on the Jeju ironman, the “toughest day in sports” as they call it.

not just a tri magazine but a national sports publication!

not just a tri magazine but a national sports publication!

there I am!

there I am!

To add to my fame and superstardom here, we raced at the Beautiful Jeju International Marathon today.  I got put in the marathon of course…and actually won it!  With a new huge PR of 3:15!  I’ll save the details for my next blog but a bunch of local athletes also recognized me from the ironman race and they wanted photos with me AND autographs.  Of course being such a ham I thoroughly enjoyed it!  :D

In fact I am loving Jeju so much, I decided to stay here for another 3 weeks.  The GreatMan ironman race that was originally cancelled has now been postponed to October 25th.  I am training very well here and really love it here, so why not cap off a great training camp in Jeju with another great result at GreatMan?  That’s the plan and as I am in the best shape of my life, I can’t wait to smash my PR from Ironman China–that 11:08 is going down!  I am even starting to get a real six-pack and am not leaving Korea without one.  :D


a blog for Momma Wongstar

Friday, September 18th, 2009
circa 2006, Georgia Tech graduation

circa 2006, Georgia Tech graduation

Momma Wongstar gets rather concerned when she sees Facebook status messages mentioning that my spandex tri shorts are getting loose.  Or maybe she read what Coach wrote on the forum, she likes to lurk around there, sneaky mum of mine. 

Mums are great for worrying.  Chinese mums especially like to make sure their daughters are well-fed and not wasting away.  Food brings the family together and you can bet that before she asks what time I need to get picked up from the airport in 2 weeks, she will ask what she should bring in the car for me to eat!

Momma Wongstar in her domain: the kitchen

Momma Wongstar in her domain: the kitchen

Well, I don’t like to worry Momma Wongstar!  Some of my friends my own age don’t even have mums any more, and that makes me sad.  I can’t imagine life without my mom, nagging and worrying and all!

She has been very supportive of this pro triathlon thing (not a career path many Chinese daughters follow) and even watches my pup Guinness when I am away at training camp. 

she is literally dog-sitting.

she is literally dog-sitting.

She tells me that Guinness says it’s Mother’s Day every day in his country!  (this was after I accidentically wished my dad a Happy Australian Father’s Day…)

so I figured she needs photographic proof that I am indeed perfectly healthy and not wasting away.

Whether I am swimming…

I have a really great glide, I do!

I have a really great glide, I do!

On the bike…

yep were in Korea

yep we're in Korea

Or running…

such a magnificent heelstrike!  eh, Coach?  ;)

such a magnificent heelstrike! eh, Coach? ;)

Ariel took this picture of me at the track just 2 days ago, on Wednesday.

Well, my arms are getting more muscles from all the swimming I love so much, and see, my run shorts aren’t loose.  Does that right leg look like it belongs to someone who is not eating?  I think not!

Maybe the tri shorts are just getting old, ok?

But maybe the best proof is seen when we go out to eat together as a team…

Ariel took us out for lunch prior to the Delphic Games opening ceremonies…

mmmmmmmmm nice fatty American food!

mmmmmmmmm nice fatty American food!

Ironically it was an American restaurant in Korea!  You can see on the table that we had pizza, calzones, chili cheese fries, garlic bread, carbonara, and ok there were salads but one of them had fried fish in it.  And damn right, I tried everything!  I’m digging into my second piece of steak calzone right there.

We also had a big group barbeque when the film crew came by to make a mini-documentary.

we ate most of the food by now...

we ate most of the food by now...

We had Korean BBQ!  It was fantastic! 
You can even see in this second shot I am reaching for more food after everyone else is done eating.  Classic!

are you gonna finish that?

"are you gonna finish that?"

Yes, it is a fact that the Wongstar does find much pleasure in eating, something that will never change.  But as I told Momma Wongstar, losing some fat is part of my job as a professional triathlete.  So it’s simply a matter of choosing healthier options now that I am on the road to becoming a true champion…

Indeed I have traded the chocolate croissants for bananas and sweet potatoes (mmm taters) on the bike rides.  Switched out the chocolate muesli cereal for Hungarian oats with cinnamon and soy milk (mmm).  Exchanged the sour gummi worms and chocolate wafers for frozen purple grapes (better than sorbet!).  And the big loaves of Swiss bread have been replaced by the occasional rice triangle, wrapped in seaweed, as seen in Tereza’s blog.  MMMM.  The Korean sushi at E-mart is also divine, I ate a whole big pack of it myself for lunch yesterday!

So not to worry, Mom, I am happily eating here in Korea, there is no shortage of good food here in the Wongstar’s dorm room.  There’s still two more squids in the fridge too.  Love you Mom!  See you at home soon enough!  :D

Iron Chef Wongstar presents: how to cook a squid.

Monday, September 14th, 2009

So I have been unsuccessful in my endeavors to locate some liver here in Korea, as my Korean is limited to 3 phrases, and the locals working behind the meat counters have very limited English as well.  I tried pointing to my liver (it’s on the left side of your abdomen, right?) but that didn’t work.  Maybe if I grabbed a bottle of Soju and pointed at my liver…

Well, we are on a gorgeous tropical island after all, which means abundant and fresh seafood, so I figured I should take advantage of that fact as my alternative source of protein.  Back in the Philippines, one of my favorite restaurant dishes was grilled pusit, which is what they call their squid.  When I went with Mat to the market for the first time, I saw some fresh squids and thought, now how cool would it be to say I bought my own squids and cooked them myself?

flashback from a year ago

flashback from a year ago

I never got the balls to do that in Subic, so here I was at the grocery store in Jeju and got my second chance.  4 squids packaged for 6000won, now that’s not bad, only $1.25 per squid.  I, Wongstar, would cook my own squid!  But how does one cook a squid?  I figured I would cook it the same as I cooked all my other meat…sesame oil, garlic, onions, and some oyster sauce in a stir-fry.

a 4-pack o squids

4-pack o' squids

I called Momma Wongstar for a cooking consultation; she knows how to cook everything.  In addition to my tried and true ingredients, she said to get some ginger as well.  She also gave me some instructions on how to pull out the slimy yucky guts *shudder* which I was not looking forward to.

the one at the bottom totally looks like an elephant

the one at the bottom totally looks like an elephant

So I got a squid out.  It seemed pretty hefty, it must be full of black nasty guts!

ok ready to attack the black nasty squid guts!

ok ready to attack the black nasty squid guts!

I worked up my courage to slice it open and was suddenly…confused.

dude, what did this squid eat for its last meal?!?!

dude, what did this squid eat for its last meal?!?!

What was this?!?!  It looked like there was corn inside.  I don’t think squids eat corn!

Huh.  What do you know!  The squids had come de-gutted and stuffed with…stuffing.  What a bargain for only $1.25!

Then I wondered if the squid itself was already cooked.  How would I know?  Does it change color like a shrimp does?  By now it was too late to call Momma Wongstar.  Let’s just assume it’s not cooked so I don’t get food poisoning (which I hear is an effective but unpleasant way to make race weight).  Things that are stuffed, like Thanksgiving turkey, are supposed to be baked.  I think.  But I have no oven here.  So back to Plan A.

I sliced up the squid.

it kind of looks like sushi, almost.

it kind of looks like sushi, almost.

Fired up the pan with my tried & true ingredients.

cant go wrong with garlic, onions, and ginger!

can't go wrong with garlic, onions, and ginger!

And threw it all in.

starting to look edible...

starting to look edible...???

And of course some oyster sauce.

I endorse the Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand of oyster sauce.

I endorse the Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand of oyster sauce.

I also stir-fried a bag of bean sprouts and tossed it all in together in my “salad bowl,” which is really the inside of the rice cooker that the apartment came with.

yep I ate the whole bag of bean sprouts

yep I ate the whole bag of bean sprouts

The verdict?  Freakin’ delicious!  A little bit spicy, maybe from whatever the squids came stuffed with, or perhaps the ginger.  And the best part is that it took at most 20mins from start to finish.

and dinner is served!

and dinner is served!

Yum yum yum.

The New Roommates: Phelpsie, Oscar, and Grandpa Johnson

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Hello, this is the Wongstar, welcome to my crib!

I thought about making a video of my sweet little place here in Korea like I did at my Florida race, but this one would only be 5 seconds long.  I’m staying at the Grandville Pension, across from the Blue Hill House where many of the teammates are.

there is even a little Grandfather out here to greet you!

there is even a little Grandfather out here to greet you!

Please leave your Avias by the door, to escape the wrath of the Koreans. 

its an Asian thing.

it's an Asian thing.

Growing up Chinese I am used to taking off the shoes when going indoors, but somewhere along the way our family Americanized the no-shoes-inside rule by letting us keep our shoes on for hard floors like in the kitchen.  Then it became a no-shoes-on-carpet rule.  Here you are supposed to take your shoes off even to walk on the hardwood floors!  I have been scolded more than once…

a peek from the front door

a peek from the front door

Please… make yourself comfortable.

a view from another corner

a view from another corner

I’ll give you the grand tour!  This is the dining room…

where I do nutrition homework and blogging for extra credit

where I do nutrition homework and blogging for extra credit

Here is the kitchen…the fridge is HUGE!  It is at least 4x bigger than our Swiss refrigerator, and I have it all to myself!  :D

sometimes Blue Steel must barricade the bathroom so I have room to cook, sometimes I wash dishes over him.

sometimes Blue Steel must barricade the bathroom so I have room to cook, sometimes I wash dishes over him.

The living room comes equipped with a TV (which I don’t watch much, except for maybe Korean pop music videos) and a desktop computer with a speedy internet connection!  I can’t complain much but I will say I’m not used to having a computer desk so low to the ground.  I’ve been doing my blogging and emailing on my little laptop in the dining room and then transferring it onto the desktop.  The downside to this netbook is that there is no plug for a LAN cable.  boo!

I feel spoiled.

I feel spoiled. Seriously!

Then there’s my bedroom, which has a great view.  You can see the pink Blue Hill House across the street from my balcony.  And no, I don’t usually make my bed.  And yes, this place is called “Grandville” but the embroidery on the blanket says “Grang Ville.”

this is the one time I made my bed.

this is the one time I made my bed.

Here’s my closet.  Good thing I didn’t pack very much!  Another wonderful thing is that the Korean washing machines here are AWESOME and free to use too.  I can tell you many horror stories about the Swiss washing machine that ate all my francs, dyed Donna’s towel pink, turned all our white clothes grey, and held my last batch of laundry hostage for 5 cycles in a row because the door wouldn’t open!!!

travelling light is the way to go, so says the international superstar

travelling light is the way to go, so says the international superstar

and of course the bathroom…I bet you wish you knew what top-secret motivational papers are taped up on the shower, too bad the picture came out blurry!  mwahaha.  Let’s just say I have something to look at while brushing my teeth.

fascinating, isnt it?

fascinating, isn't it?

After sharing the little Swiss penthouse with the Bean, LC, and later Manny, with two mattresses in the living room and having to wait for the bathroom at times, I’ll have to say…it’s pretty nice having the whole place to myself!

Well… almost to my whole self.  I have a few guys here living with me that help inspire me to train my best every day.  It’s a bit of a tight squeeze in here for me and the three new roommates, but they stay out of my way and never leave the toilet seat up!

hes not bad to look at either.

he's not bad to look at either.

Phelpsie.  I wasn’t always a big fan of Phelpsie, sure he’s a great swimmer but he seemed a little arrogant and douchey quite honestly.  And those ears.  But he’s gotten a lot of people really excited about swimming, including my little niece and nephew.  They were stoked to follow him in Beijing, and got really excited going to their weekly swimming lessons–something I wish I had at that age…childhood swimming lessons!!  They would ask me “Jo-jo, is Michael Phelps faster than…YOU?”  Only by a little bit, my little ones.  ;)   Then I acquired his autobiography in Leysin via LC from Donna and got pretty inspired myself.  He has a really hard work ethic and a huge passion for swimming.  Coach actually has good things to say about both Phelpsie and his swim coach, Bob Bowman…so that’s saying a lot.  You get to read about how he hardly ever took a day off swimming and how much work he put into making himself the world’s best swimmer.  And he started off hating swimming as a kid…so there is hope for me yet.  Having Phelpsie as a roommate inspires me to be a better swimmer and keep working EXTREMELY hard on my worst discipline in triathlon.

hes not bad to look at either.  wait, I said that already.

he's not bad to look at either. wait, I said that already.

Oscar.  A big thank you to Bean’s friend Kristian for sending me not just one but two Oscar Pistorius posters!!  One of them got sent home with the dead warrior horse so that I can have a permanent Oscar in my bedroom at home, and a travelling Oscar who will get to see the world with me.  Oscar was born with missing fibulas in both legs and had amputation surgery below both knees when he was only 11 months old.  But that never stopped him!  He runs on two carbon-fiber prosthetic sprinting legs, competing in the 100m, 200m, and 400m events.  He has shattered many Paralympic world records (49 of them!) and almost made it onto the able-bodied Olympic track team last year.  He is redefining what is possible, and as a certified prosthetist myself it is the so-called “challenged” athletes like him that drew me into the profession of prosthetics.  He also reminds me that I want to help more of the Oscar’s in the world pursue their athletic dreams through my prosthetics social projects.  I realize I’ve been a little quiet on the social project front but this will change pretty soon!

he kind of looks like a...

he kind of looks like a...

Grandpa Johnson.  I know “Johnson” isn’t a very Korean-sounding name for my Korean grandfather here but it somehow seemed to suit him.  And Grandpa Dick didn’t sound very nice.  He is a pretty hefty guy and I actually left him here when I went to Europe…accidentally as I was loading my bags to go to the airport!  The Blue Hill House kept him for safekeeping and probably saved me from some excess baggage fees.  He is a solid reminder of some of my biggest accomplishments this year rolled into a single race–winning my first triathlon, winning my first pro race, winning my first ironman-distance race, winning my first paycheck… 

In fact I am actually living off my cash winnings from this race during the month of September, and if that’s not the epitome of living the pro lifestyle, I’m not sure what is!  Obviously my humble little abode is not huge, despite being a Korean millionaire at one point, but I have everything I need and am quite happy here.

I am really enjoying my time here on Jeju Island.  I love it here!

making the grade at Sutto’s Triathlon Academy

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
sign translation: walk this way to Suttos Triathlon Academy, Jeju Island Campus

sign translation: "walk this way to Sutto's Triathlon Academy, Jeju Island Campus"

Well, it is the final semester of my freshman year at Sutto’s Triathlon Academy.  Our campus has moved to the beautiful island of Jeju in South Korea and classes have just gotten under way.  Most of the other students here are upperclassmen and studying hard for their final exams in Kona, Hawaii.  Then there’s James, who enrolled with me last fall but seems to have skipped a few grades already.  However, an average frosh like me (below average??) is here to learn even more from Headmaster Sutto in preparation for the next few years of school, and life beyond graduation.

this would have to be our most beautiful campus!

definitely our most beautiful campus!

The seniors don’t really have as much homework as I do.  The headmaster likes to assign me what I call “YouTube homework,” which is kind of like what I imagine taking that “Film Lit” class in high school would’ve been like.  (I wouldn’t know, I looked down on that “class”, I was a supernerd remember?)  Then again some students do get blogging homework, but since I rather enjoy blogging I find it more like “extra credit.”

How to Become an Asian Triathlon Superstar, Step #26:  Ace all your classes at the triathlon academy by doing your YouTube homework, and always listen to the headmaster.

Swimming 101:  Freestyle Stroke Technique.

As a freshman I am learning to work on my technique more than the seniors.  We all have different swimming styles and after the headmaster subjected me to countless research experiments over this past year, he came up with a scientific conclusion as to what works best for me in the water.  Which is different to the other students here.

YouTube Preview Image

So it is good homework to watch the great Aussie Grant Hackett so I can learn to swim faster and get an A+.  Previous swim homeworks featured Janet Evans….

YouTube Preview Image

…but I got a big red “F” on that assignment.  Hmm.  I got a lot of F’s in Swimming 101, that is why I have to keep repeating it.  This is a lot harder than high school.

My next course is Running 202: Mastering the Shuffle.

We are lucky enough to be able to do our track sessions with the Korean national team at the Marathon Center.  On my first day at this class I showed up late after getting lost (dumb frosh, I should probably take some extra courses in Navigation and Korean Language Skills), and almost missed the Korean race walking athletes.  One guy was in lane one blowing by all our runners!  WALKING VERY FAST.  Another girl was doing all kinds of drills to practice her cadence and heel-strike.  Since the first semester, Headmaster Sutto has been giving me many YouTube homework assignments to master the shuffle, but YouTube just doesn’t compare to seeing the elite race walkers in person.

Alas, you are not here at triathlon academy with me, so here is some of my YouTube homework from this course:

YouTube Preview Image

You can also play two videos at the same time; I was assigned to have this song playing in the background while watching the above video:

YouTube Preview Image

Walk this way…heel-toe, heel-toe…it’s a little hard to see, but even the guy on the Korean crosswalk sign has got the heelstrike down!

The race walking video is from the 20k women’s race walk at the Track & Field World Championships in Berlin last month, and I was pumped to see a girl from China shuffle into 3rd place!  Since I am supposed to be “running” more like a racewalker, she is my new hero rather than Xue Bai, who won the marathon title.  Her name is Liu Hong (here is a profile of her) and she was 4th at the Olympics in Beijing as well.  In my internet stalking, I came across some photos of her with KILLER ABS:

winner of best abs ever seen on a Chinese chick

winner of best abs ever seen on a Chinese person, male or female!

Holy crap, right??!  Sweet baby Jesus, I have never seen such a magnificent six-pack on a Chinese girl (or guy for that matter) or anything even close to it!   …I know this is very hard to believe, but as awesome as I am, I certainly don’t have abs quite like that (YET!!!). 

this will be me in a few months ;)

this will be me by the end of the semester ;)

Funnily enough, the requirement for getting an A+ in my Nutrition 123 course is by getting those six countable abs.  My progress reports indicate improvement, but I still have some work to do.  Obviously I can no longer use the excuse that Chinese girls are incapable of getting that ripped.  Well, you can bet that getting a superstar six-pack is on my list of goals in addition to breaking 3:20 in the marathon and going sub-10 in an ironman!  Vain, you may be thinking, but really I’m just trying to get a 4.0 GPA.  ;)

So unfortunately with all my F’s in Swimming and mediocre grades in Nutrition, I am already out of the running for valedictorian here. I did manage to score high marks in HTFU 101 and 102 though (exams were in Haikou, China and Embrun, France) and I’m not giving up on being voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in the school yearbook…heck, even if I only get voted “Best Abs” by the time I graduate, I’ll consider my time at this school worthwhile!!  ;)

I always did enjoy school!

I always did enjoy school!

Goodbye turkey.

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
a bit fanatical with the Turkish flags
a bit fanatical with them Turkish flags eh?

So I went to Istanbul to add more exciting photos to my album of magical memories in Turkey.  I only say that slightly sarcastically as when I left my “normal” life in California almost exactly 12 months ago, I knew my life was going to change.  I just never imagined it would change so much, so fast, and that I would experience so much in the course of a single year.  Since September of 2008, I have been to the Philippines twice for training camps and several prosthetics missions; raced in Singapore, China, and Korea; went to Europe for the first time–where I got to see Switzerland, some of France, and a small bit of Italy (whilst driving inside a really long tunnel); and pursued a romantic interest in Turkey, which is the only country that straddles two continents–Europe and Asia.  If you had told me a year ago that in the space of the next 12 months I would get to visit six new countries pursuing triathlons and prosthetics, with a little bit of a summer romance thrown in…winning prize money…making prosthetic legs in Southeast Asia…training with the best in the sport…getting a top-3 marathon split in every ironman…well…I think my head and my heart may have exploded.

I was originally going back to Turkey for a whole week following Swiss camp, but as things–like life, young hearts, and the stock market–change quickly, plane tickets were changed and by virtue of the flight schedules, had to stay 15 hours in Istanbul overnight.  Yes, going back for an overnight trip as remnants of something that didn’t work out was admittedly difficult for me.  It was hard not to constantly think about that OTHER trip to Turkey and how happy and clueless I was.  But I made the most of it, as I didn’t have a chance to see Istanbul at all other than 5 miserable hours between 1am and 6am in the domestic terminal of the airport.  Istanbul straddles the European/Asian divide of Turkey and I had been another 90-min flight east, near Adana.  In a way this gave me a chance to say goodbye to the country where I experienced both great happiness and ultimately some sadness, and provided the opportunity to literally…move on.

in front of Ayasofya (aka Hagia Sophia)

in front of Ayasofya (aka Hagia Sophia)

I stayed in the Sultanhamet area of Istanbul and was walking distance from a lot of the big sights….the Byzantine Hippodrome, Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar.  Even driving from the airport I was amazed at the blend of modern buildings amidst ancient ruins of stone walls and buildings.  We just don’t have places this old in America.  I think I may have been more interested in history class when I was at school if I had visited places like this, or maybe Greece…

somewhere in the Hippodrome
somewhere in the Hippodrome

Heck, if I had a better clue about geography and knew that both Troy and Gallipoli were so close to Istanbul…and somehow foresaw that my Korean race would be cancelled, maybe I would’ve kept that extra week in Istanbul and really had a good look around!  My world history teacher in high school, Doug Ritenour or “Mr. R”, was also our assistant track coach and he had us watch the movie Gallipoli.  I will never forget the conversation between the coach and the sprinter/soldier:

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: How fast are you going to run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard!!!
Jack: Then let’s see you do it.

In my wanderings through the city I randomly met a rather friendly local restaurant owner who grew up in Istanbul and also happened to be a tango instructor in San Diego 3 months out of the year.  He gave me a quick tour of the area we were in, free of charge.  My lucky day!

a view of the Blue Mosque aka Sultan Ahmet Camii
a view of the Blue Mosque aka Sultan Ahmet Camii

 He showed me where the best view of the entire city could be found…from the roof of Hotel Arcadia…and no I didn’t stay there.  Much too fancy for a young and upcoming triathlon superstar.

a view of Ayasofya...these were taken from the roof of Hotel Arcadia...no I didnt stay there...
a view of Ayasofya
the Bosphorus Bridge is way in the background; it connects the Asian side to the European side of Istanbul!
the Bosphorus Bridge is way in the background; it connects the Asian side to the European side of Istanbul!

 Then I wandered over towards the Grand Bazaar, a rather huge indoor marketplace that you can spend over an hour just walking around in.  Lots of jewelry, ceramics, RUGS!!!, silk and cashmere, and whole sections dedicated to fashion and leather.  No shopping for me, still waiting on those 2000 euros (!!!)  from Embrunman but digital pictures are free and last longer.

another mosque getting a renovation
another mosque getting a renovation
into the Grand Bazaar!
into the Grand Bazaar!
a lot of pottery and yet another flag in case I forget where I am in the world

a lot of pottery and another flag in case I forget where I am

there was even an Adamo store!  I dont think they sold bike saddles though...

there was even an Adamo store! I don't think they sold bike saddles though...

I can’t quite write “the Wongstar’s guide to Turkey” as I really haven’t experienced much of it, but maybe I am qualified to write “the Wongstar’s guide to turkeys.”  After all, I was born the day before Thanksgiving… ;)   Then again you will probably be more interested in reading “the Wongstar’s guide to how to fly with your bike for free,” as I arrived on Jeju Island 2 days ago with the purple and pink bike box making its 11th consecutive one-way flight free of charge.  Yep that’s ELEVEN. 

the best damn bike box and my carry-on, all a superstar needs for international travel
the best damn bike box and my carry-on, all a superstar really needs for international travel

The purple and pink is however showing its wear and tear…it has gone wheelless and will have to be retired when I go home in October.  You gotta admit that it has more than paid for itself (considering I paid maybe $30 at most in duct tape and straps?).  I haven’t experienced any damage to the horse inside so that’s one big vote for cardboard bike box reinforced with duct tape!  I’m already brainstorming how to make Version 2 better.  Things like that keep me up at night and occupy my mind during long rides ;)

The Wongstar’s Guide to Switzerland

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Every time you go approach a village there is a sign with all these symbols about what fun things you can do there.  I haven’t figured out what this one means…It looks like a guy in a baseball cap straddling a fishing pole, but I don’t know where in Leysin you would go fishing.

The village of Aigle is pronounced “egg.”  I gave up trying to understand the French pronunciations because it is like trying to understand boys.  It will just cause much frustration and make you mad, so better to just accept that’s how they are and move on.

You will see these “CH” stickers on many cars.  For some reason this is the country abbreviation for “Switzerland” even though there is no “C” nor “H” in Switzerland.  Sometimes when you want to Google something the web browser will redirect you to www.google.ch.  I have concluded that the Swiss are must be very proud of their “cheese” and “chocolate,” because that’s what the “CH” stands for.  Obviously.

The rooftops are big pointy triangles.  This is so that when it snows, the snow can fall off the edge.  Otherwise the roof might cave in from the weight of the snow.  Having been a near victim of a ceiling collapse, this architectural marvel is much appreciated.  Not that I’ll be here when it snows.

top floor = penthouse.  you can see our clothes drying outside :)

top floor = penthouse. you can see our clothes drying outside :)

There are shutters on the window.  I think so that it shuts out the cold.  Yeah I am glad to have left before it got cold.  Even though my Chinese name means “Snow Baby,” I think I prefer it warmer.  Hot.  VERY hot.  ;)  Hello Korea!

Public bathrooms are noted with the initials “W.C.”  Which I’m told is all over the rest of Europe as well (yes I did see this in France and Turkey too).  Tereza told me that it stands for “water closet.”  I like to say “I need to go to the water closet” because it cracks me up.  (Note: in the Philippines it is labelled “C.R.” for “comfort room.”  That’s funny too.)

the water closets!

the water closets!

Leysin is located high up in the sky.  One foggy day I looked outside and declared “Wow it’s like we’re in a cloud!”  Bean’s reply:  ”Wongstar, we ARE in a cloud.”  ”Oh.”  Hello altitude!

I just woke up but at least my hair looks good!

I just woke up but at least my hair looks good!

There are signs at every major intersection to direct you to the city or village you are looking for, but not very many street names are labelled, at least not very obviously.  So while it is hard to get lost, giving or getting directions can be confusing.  ”Take that street until you see the sign for that village, and then turn when you see the sign for that other village at the second roundabout…”

The Swiss flag is SQUARE.  How cool!  That’s Switzerland for you, very neutral, very square.

Key phrases in French when staying on the French side of Switzerland:

“Bonjour!” (bon-joor) means “good day.”

“Bonsoir!” (bon-SWA!) means “good evening.”

“merci!” (meer-see) means “thanks.”

Ok now let’s get fancy.

“merci beaucoup” (meer-see boo-coo) means “thanks a lot!”  I remember that one because my high school coach was always talking about making “boo-coo bucks” when we were holding fundraisers for the track team.  I never knew what he was talking about.

“si vous plait” (see boo play) means “please.”  Sometimes you see the abbreviation “SVP” on signs or the credit card machine, three words to say please, wow.

“au revoir!” (ah-VWA!) means bye.  It took me a couple weeks to nail this one down because I kept wanting to say “aww reh voor!”

“a bientot!” (ah bee-en-toe) means “see you later!”  My sister taught me that one.  She minored in French at UCLA and I think I’ll pack her in my suitcase next summer so we can play wing-girl for each other.  It is hard to mingle with the Swiss frat boys when you don’t understand each other.  Ok, I take it back, it’s not hard to mingle with them, it’s just hard to talk to each other!

“voila!” means the same as in English.  HAHAHAHA.  the cashiers like to say this when they give you your change, with a big flourish and a “voila!” like they’ve just done a really cool magic trick.

“bisou” (bi-zoo) means kiss.
so I think “bisou francais” (bi-zoo fran-say) should be a French kiss.

Now a French kiss is when you kiss cheeks three times alternating sides.  At least that’s been my experience.  But a triathlon superstar doesn’t kiss and tell.  heheee ;)  She has no qualms however about telling the world how stupid you are if you do her wrong.

So that’s Switzerland for you.  I came, I saw, I conquered.  Give me another month and you’ll get the Wongstar’s Guide to South Korea.

Ah-VWA and ah-bee-en-TOE!