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Goodbye turkey. « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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Goodbye turkey.

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 ;)

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