After a 4 hour flight from Paris to Bucharest…a 1.5 hour layover…and a short 1 hour connecting flight…I finally arrived in Istanbul. A couple of things right off the bat; Istanbul is considerably hotter and more humid than Paris; the pace of Istanbul is a lot crazier as well; and the landscape here is amazing. The reason for this, it’s the only city in the world which spreads over two continents (it lies at a point where Asia and Europe are separated by a narrow strait – the Bosphorus). Combined with 2500 years of history, Istanbul has been one of the countries I’ve been wanting to visit for some time.
So…I hop in a cab and 45 minutes later, arrive at my hostel (Metropolis Hotel) and meet my friend from Ben, who had arrived a few hours earlier. *During the planning process, Ben and I had spoken and was also looking to go on a trip, where we agreed on Istanbul and Croatia. To go back to my point earlier…commit to buying the airline ticket first and the rest will work itself out. Anyway, I get settled into the room (thank Christ it has air conditioning), walk around to get my bearings and feel for the area, then head to a rooftop restaurant for dinner. In short, nothing too eventful our first day, but a much needed day of relaxing and planning for the next few days over some cold beers and hookah. *Side Note: The people that work at the Metropolis Hotel are awesome and super helpful. Even more, we got to know them pretty well over the course of 4 days and they’re a group of great people. Of special note…shout out to Mustafa!
The next morning we wake up and walk over to Topkaki Palace, which luckily was close to our hostels. Even more, the Metropolis Hotel was centrally located and pretty close to everything! Anyway, some interesting facts about Topkaki Palace:
- Topkapi Palace used to be the Ottoman Sultans’ prime residence for almost 400 years
- It’s Istanbul’s main tourist attraction
- Mehmet II built the palace in 1459-65 after conquering Constantinople. It served as the sultan’s palace until Abdül Mecit I moved the court to Dolmabahçe Palace in 1853
- It was designed to resemble the tent encampments of nomadic Ottomans. It stands on Sarayburnu, a strategic point overlooking the Bosphorus
- Beside the sultan’s residence the palace contained offices, the seat of government, a Harem and also a military training ground for Ottoman soldiers
- After the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1921), the government turned the Topkapi Palace in a museum of the imperial era in 1924
- The museum houses such invaluable treasures as the 86-carat Kasikci Diamond, the Topkapi Dagger, prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword
After visiting the Topkaki Palace, we decide to get on a Jump On/Jump Off bus to see more of Istanbul, as well as give our legs a rest…and get out of the heat. The tour last about 2 hours and points of interest included: Taksim Sqaure, Sultanhamet Center, Maritaim Chamber of Commerce, Dolmabahace Palace, The Golden Horn, Orthodox Patriarchate, Pierre Loti Cafe, Edirnekapi and Yenikap/Kumkapi.
Ok…it’s getting late so, going to try and wrap this up quickly…the next day, we visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Aya Sofia and covered bazaar. Interesting facts about:
- The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka The Blue Mosque):
- The Blue Mosque is called such because of the blue tiles in its interiors. Moreover, the ceiling is lined with thousands of blue tiles
- People going to the Blue Mosque should enter from the west entrance; this is so that there is more drama in seeing the structures
- The Blue Mosque gained popularity perhaps because of its six minarets. Looking around other mosques show that most of these have only four minarets; the story behind the two extra minarets was said that when Sultan Ahmet I was only 19 years old, he commissioned the construction of the mosque. Sultan Ahmet I requested for gold (altin) minarets. However, the architect misunderstood the request, and he instead built six (alti) minarets.
- Hagia Sophia remained the largest cathedral in the world for a span of thousand years, until the construction of Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520.
- Hagia Sophia is also referred to as ‘Saint Sophia’, which means wisdom in Greek. The full name of Hagia Sophia is Church of the Holy Wisdom of God. The church was dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God, rather than a specific saint named Sophia.
- The monument is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.
- The structure of Hagia Sophia has a classic basilica plan. The main ground plan consists of a rectangle, 230 feet in width and 246 feet in length. The area is covered by a central dome with a diameter of 31 meters, slightly smaller than that of the Pantheon in Rome.
- Hagia Sophia has the ultimate contrast of two religions together. Both Islam and Christianity have their foothold in museum. While the Islamic calligraphic roundels are suspended from the main dome, the museum also has uncovered Christian mosaics as its prime feature.
- Istanbul, Turkey is home to one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. More than a thousand shops in almost 60 streets and about 31,000 square meters
- The market opened in 1461 and the domed bedestens in the market was built between 1455 and 1461
- The 16th century saw the expansion of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. However, an earthquake prompted restoration in the structure in 1894
On our last day in Istanbul, we visited the Basilica Cistern…and of course, we couldn’t leave without going to the Turkish Bath! Interesting facts about the Basilica Cistern:
- The Basilica Cistern, which borrowed its name from the Ilius Basilica, is 143 meters long and 65 meters wide. The roof is supported by 336 marble columns, mostly in Ionic or Corinthian styles, each measuring 9 meters in length. Spaced at four-meter intervals, they are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each.
- The cistern could hold 80.000 cubic meters of water, coming from the Eğrikapı Water Distribution Centre in the Belgrade Forest, 19 kilometers from the city. The water was transported to the city center via the 971-meter-long Valens Aqueduct (Bozdoğan Sukemeri) and the 11.545-meter-long Mağlova Aqueduct (Mağlova Sukemeri), which was built by Emperor Justinian I.
- The cistern was forgotten for centuries and only accidently rediscovered by the Frenchman Peter Gyllius in 1545. While researching Byzantine antiquities in the city, he noticed that people in the neighborhood not only got a hold of water by simply lowering buckets through holes in their basements, they miraculously sometimes even caught fish this way.
- The cistern contains 2 Medusa heads. Both heads are casually used as column bases; one positioned upside down, the other tilted to the side. Both their positioning as their origin remain a mystery up till now, although rumor has it that they were recycled form an antique building of the late Roman period.
Originally, when I was starting my travel plans, I was looking to travel with my friend Mina through Paris, Monaco, Cannes and Nice. However, after thinking about it, I wanted to travel to more countries than just France and had thought Paris wouldn’t be happening for me anymore. However, luckily the timing worked out well where she was still going to France and our days overlapped. *To my point from my earlier post, just commit to buying your ticket first…the rest of the logistics will work themselves out.
- When this huge tower was officially opened in 1889, it was the highest structure of the planet. In 1930, one other skyscraper ”Chrysler”, got ahead with 18 meters. However, if the height of the Eiffel Tower added to the length of its 24-meter antenna, the “Chrysler” left behind. Nowadays, the Eiffel Tower is on the fifth place among the high-rise buildings in France.
After the Louvre, we headed out to lunch where we met up with Mina’s friend Ellen at Cafe Colbert – it’s the restaurant where they shot the dinner scene with Jack Nicholson and Dianne Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give. Then the 3 of us went on the Blue Bike Tour around Paris which took about 4 hours and stops included; Place Vendome, Place de la Concorde, Grand Palais, Invalides, St Germaine Village, St Sulpiice Church, The Pantheon, Mouffetard Village, Notre Dame Cathedral, Le Marais, The Louvre. With that, our tour guide was named Hava and was not only awesome, but also a really interesting story.
So first let me begin by saying, a lot of people have been saying that my journey sounds great, or that they’re jealous. But in being honest, booking a trip like this really isn’t that difficult.
Having just discovered my love of traveling last summer, when I had gone to Barcelona…then Amsterdam, Brussels, Java and Bali later…the toughest part is committing to taking your trip. Let me clarify…everyone wants or dreams of going somewhere, right? But a large majority of the reason why they don’t is because they find some way to talk themselves out of it. For what ever reason it may be…work, bad timing, not enough money, nobody to travel with, etc., their trip doesn’t happen. With that in mind, the best advice I can offer is to not focus on the logistical things till later, and to just commit to your destination and buy your airline ticket first. The rest will fall in to place (trust me) and you’ll find a way to make those other issues seem inconsequential and guarantee actually going somewhere. Anyway, I digress…
I decided to make the first stop of my journey NYC. The reason for this was twofold; first it allowed me to break up the long flight from the west coast into Europe and secondly, having lived there for many years…I wanted to see some old friends – even for just a night.
For those of you who have followed my earlier entries, you’ll know that I have a love/hate relationship with NYC. I mean, point in case…I’ve moved in and out of NY three times. Briefly, my first stint – I loved every moment there and believe that it changed my life for the better in many ways…from finishing school, to trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone, and making incredible friendships. My second stint – partied way too hard and inflicted way too much punishment on my body and health. And my third stint, returned for a work opportunity that didn’t pan out in the end and also with the wrong mental state. In any case, I still love you NYC and every time I visit…you never let me down. *However, you gotta do something about the vicious heat and smothering humidity!
So yeah, my journey began in NYC and as noted earlier, always good times! Even after waking up late and barely making my flight…having my bag not make my flight and arriving later…and the ridiculous August heat + humidity. All these are easily forgotten when you’re able to have dinner and catch up with great old school friends…play with their kids and see the next generation in training…and a beautiful air-conditioned apartment. *Big ups and special thank you shout outs to my NYC Tribe family for that!
Long story short…NYC was the perfect way to start my journey and now that I was reunited with my bag…on to Paris…
I know I start a lot of my entries this way…but, it’s been a while since I’ve last written and a lot of it has to do with having nothing to say. Now that’s not to say that nothing of substance has happened over the past few years, because a lot has happened. *If I feel or get motivated enough, I may go into these events in more detail another time. However, for the next several entries, I’d like to reserve for the present.
I should probably provide a bit of context first, right? Earlier this year, my mother had passed away which was devastating for me, since my mother and I were very close. A week later, the agency where I worked eliminated my position and in turn, provided a very generous severance package. At this point, I’m still not sure if this was a blessing in disguise or not…because who wants to look for a new job in this shitty economy, as well as cope with loss at the same time. On the other hand, a generous severance allows for some time off w/o the financial burden, as well as the opportunity to grieve and cope in my own cathartic way.
Anyway, long story short…I’ve been unemployed for about 6 months now. And while I have been looking for a new job over the past few months, I’m not really finding anything that I’m interested…or excited about. *Having the time off has helped in getting more focused and gaining new perspective(s). So….admittedly, while the 6 months has been more of a positive thing personally, I can’t help but feel restless.
In turn, I decided to take advantage of this time off and try to put together an epic journey. My exact course…Los Angeles to New York…New York to Paris…Paris to Istanbul…Istanbul to Zagreb, Croatia…Zagreb to Novalja/Pag, Croatia…Novalja/Pag to Split, Croatia…Split to Prague…Prague to Budapest…Budapest to Vienna…and Vienna to Burning Man.
The following entries is an effort to share my journey…
As Mother’s Day has come and gone, my emotions were a bit stirred and thought I would share my eulogy delivered on 02.12.12…
Over the past year, I began thinking what I would say to tell you what my mother meant to me and the person she was. Thankfully, my brothers are able to share a little bit about the special mother and person she was, so I’d like to share what my mother meant to me.
To put it simply…my mother and I had a very special relationship. I think a lot of this is because she probably worried about me the most…or…probably because I caused her the most worry. Unlike my 2 brothers, I was more of an “actively reckless child.” Maybe it was because I’m a middle child and demanded…or “required” the most attention…or maybe I actually didn’t get the most attention and just thought I did…? Whatever the case, my mother always understood me and knew how to find a way to challenge me to be better than what I was.
One of the stories I remember her telling me, was not how…but why she became a nurse…and how she enrolled in nursing school as a means to better her situation and leave the small town in Korea she grew up in. For some reason, this story always resonated with me and as I got older, whether it’s because she inspired me, or because it was her way of challenging me to do/be something better…I decided to move to NY.
While there, I remember my mother and I would speak almost every other day. Part of our calls were always set aside for her to continue that same level of attention she had provided to me so unconditionally as a child – reminders to eat right, try hard, do my best , save money and not drink so much. The other part of our calls, were set aside for us to just…talk. From family…to finding the right person…to learning from mistakes… the importance of building good character…to faith and thanks in God… all of which, laddering up to valuable life lessons in becoming a better person. In short, it was again…my mother’s way of continuing to find a way to challenge me to be better than what I was.
I know what some of you may be thinking, and the answer is yes – I am a momma’s boy. So admittedly, as her Alzheimer’s advanced, it was very difficult for me to see our special relationship slowly disappear and become versions of something that it used to be. To not be able to talk with her the same way, or call whenever I wanted or needed to, or share both the good and bad things in my life, or hear her laugh or words of encouragement, is something I will always miss.
I remember sitting with my mother this past Christmas break…holding her hand…and telling her that it’s taken me a while but, I’m finally doing well. I’m eating right, I’m trying hard, I’m doing my best, I’m saving money, I’m not drinking so much…that I remember everything she’s taught me and she doesn’t need to worry about me anymore…that she raised 3 good men and that she should be proud of all of us, the same way we are proud of her….that she did a good job…that I love her…and thank you.
In her fragile state… she looked at me…softly said “thank you”… squeezed my hand…and asked me to help her touch my face…and in this brief moment of clarity, I knew…even for just a few seconds, I had her back and she heard me. In writing this eulogy, I’ve now come to realize that this was my mother’s final challenge for me – that is, to continue what I have become…and now am…because of her.
When my mother passed, I was at airport waiting for my flight to come home. Even though I know she knew – the most difficult thing for me was not being able to tell her…I love her…just one more time. What’s equally difficult is, knowing that this will be the last time I’ll be able to say to her face…I love you mom.
Still no word from Ted…so, I’ve sent another email today (10.11.10).
Season’s greetings from your favorite frozen Inuit friends up here on the 9th floor, office 9116!
Not sure if you’ve noticed but, sometime over the unusually warm weekend, the offices next to us tragically are no longer where they used to be. Sadly, the effects of global warming and the melting polar caps must have caused some sort of giant glacial shift, whereby these offices fell victim to its path – and were swept away.
On a more positive note, due to the unusually warm weekend, Kirk, Jules and I discovered a perfectly preserved person buried within our office in a block of ice. After about 6.5 hours chiseling away various ice sculptures, we were able to finally get her out.
Needless to say, her motor and cognitive skills are severely damaged and her identity remains a mystery. To this point, we’ve gone ahead and given her a temporary nickname, “Encino Woman.” Although…now that I think about this for a second, it’s kind of weird that whenever we call her “Encino Woman,” she whispers in an almost violent shiver back to us - “Heat…her.” Do you think she’s still cold and wants a “heater” or do you think her name is “Heather?” Regardless, she’ll always be our Encino Woman…
On that note, please let us know if there are any plans on sending help our way. We’ve been able to stream some Man vs. Wild episodes via internet. Specifically, Season 4: Episode 1 where Bear Grylls heads for the icy wastes of the Arctic Circle, and tackles a frozen waterfall, hunts wild reindeer and battles against some of the coldest conditions on the planet…so, we’re learning how to make the necessary adjustments to survive. However, it really would be great if we could receive some portable heaters and avoid using the wood from the couch to make a fire.
I haven’t received a response to my earlier email to the Building Manager yet…and the office is still freezing! So…I thought I’d send him another email today (10.05).
I’m not sure if you’ve received my earlier email as I fear the internet wires have frozen over, and the roads leading to our office along the “information super highway” have been detoured. To that point, I also fear this follow up email may not reach you as well but, since we aren’t equipped with a flair gun or an emergency kit, I will continue to try and reach out to you.
Per my earlier note, we are quickly approaching hyperthermia and our motor skills seem to be diminishing equally as fast. Jules has lost all coordination in her left extremities and as a result, walks in circles. Meanwhile, Kirk has completely lost the ability to type with his fingers and has resorted to using his big toe and nose to what can only be described as – “jabbing at the keyboard.” Consequently, all capitalization of letters is completely lost and futile.
With all this, we still remain hopeful. Largely in part because we believe if a Miami dentist, who inherits a team of sled dogs and can man an iditarod – ala Cuba Gooding Jr. in the feel good 2002 movie, “Snow Dogs”…surely, there must be a rescue team stationed near by that can reach us…? Perhaps, you can reach out to Paul Walker and his team of dogs for assistance? As you may recall in 2006, from the heart-tugging and inspirational movie – “Eight Below,” the brutal cold forced 2 Antarctic explorers to leave their sled of dogs behind as they fended for their lives…with only their courage, hope and will to survive. In turn, so do we…
Again, we are located on the 9th floor in office 9116 — if you get to the March of Penguins, you’ve gone too far. Additionally, I’ve attached a picture of myself next to the office in order to better help you find us.
I know, it’s been a while since I’ve written…muh-bad. Anyway, I created a new category called, “Emails” – and this category is dedicated to emails (work or personal) that are too good not to share!
With that, below is an email sent to Ted, the building manager where I work requesting they do something about working in a freezing office on 09.30.10.
I think Kirk and Jules have both reached out to you earlier regarding our office being ridiculously cold. Is there anything that can be done because we’re about 2 degrees celsius off, and just under 3.5 minutes away from all getting frost bite?
In just typing this email, my hands are so cold that I feel like I’m typing with 10 little ice cubes. That said, I just gave permission to my office mates to eat me should I freeze to death and they somehow manage to survive.
To give you an indication of how just how cold it is…here are some true and real time facts:
1) I’m currently wearing a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a sweater…and am STILL cold
2) A can of soda has been sitting on my desk the last 2 weeks at room temperature and feels like it’s been in the fridge
Are there any portable space heaters that we can use? Perhaps some extra scraps of wood laying around from the remodeling being done so we can start a fire…or maybe a blow-torch…flame thrower…or a heating pad at the very least? We’re getting pretty desperate here and would consider even using lighters or matches…or tobasco sauce.
If you’d like to stop by to experience and understand the phrase, “Cool Alaskan air” first-hand, we’re on the 9th floor in office 9116 (directly across from the glacier that sank the Titanic and just above “Hell Freezing” over).
*Please note, it’s BYOP (bring your own parka).
Somehow I feel like being the “Mayor” with this check-in isn’t so great…
Foursquare offers reward for checking in after STD checkups
While the results of an STD test are generally confidential, the decision to get such a check-up can now be more public.
Foursquare, the social network that allows members to broadcast their location and activities, has joined forces with MTV in an effort to remove the stigma attached with getting screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Members who “check in” for an STD test during the month of September will receive a special virtual “badge.” According to The Associated Press, the badge is one part of the cable network’s “GYT: Get Yourself Tested” campaign, which also encourages open communication with parents, partners and health care providers. To find your local testing center, click here, or text your zip code to GYTNOW (498669) on your cell phone.
More than 19 million new cases of STDs are contracted in the U.S. every year, and half of those cases will occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24. What’s worse, many who have chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, HPV, syphilis, hepatitis B or HIV don’t even know it. All STDs are treatable and many are curable, but the key is to get tested.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV as a matter of routine health care. Anyone who has had unprotected sex, or who has injected drugs, or has had a partner who has done either of these things, or whose partner’s other partners may have done these things, may have contracted an STD.
To reduce the risk, know your health status and the status of your partner. Get tested regularly. If your test comes back negative, stay negative by practicing safe sex — abstinence, monogamy, birth control, condoms — and not sharing needles. If the test comes back positive, get treated immediately. Treatment will help prevent serious health effects and reduce the risk of exposing others.
1) Hipsters — this city is infested with these fuggers. I have never seen so many non-tourist or rednecks in jean or corderoy shorts and/or in plaid than I do here. Hell, I didnt’ even know they made plaid tank-tops?!?
2) The Humidity + Waiting on the Subway Platforms — the first 5 weeks here, the humidity was beyond ridiculous and elevated to just plain – angry F-U level. I’m talking about the type of humidity that when you step outside, the first thing you say is, “UGH – WTF!” To top it off, you’ve gotta to downstairs to take the subway and feel like you’re part of some filthy rat infested stew that Satan himself is cooking.
3) Tow Trucks, Parking Rules/Regulations — there’s nothing better than having your car towed the first night after just receiving it from being transported cross country. Wait…I lied and I take that back…the only thing that’s better is getting 2 tickets for parking 10 feet from a fire hydrant – when NY law says it needs to be 15 feet and THEN……getting it towed. BTW – a very close runner up is paying $205 to get the car out of impound and looking forward to paying $230 for the 2 fire hydrant tickets.
4) Craigslist Apartment Postings – my friend made a very good observation about Craigslist…specifically in NY. In other markets like Chicago or LA, Craigslist is an incredibly useful site and resource. However, Craigslist for NY has got to be the biggest fuggin’ joke and waste of time! You’ve got brokers posting their apartment listings in sections that they shouldn’t be…you’ve got the same listing 200x over – in the wrong neighborhoods but with slightly modified copy…incomplete listings…bottom line, it’s a complete shit show.
5) Overweight Brooklyn Commuters — pound for pound, the commuters coming in and out of Brooklyn have got to be the heaviest people I’ve ever seen. I know, I sound like a dick…but these people are like slow moving planets and when you put them in orbit with the “angry F-U level” humidity I noted earlier…you’ll understand.
6) The Slowest Fast Food Workers with 2 Legs — I don’t get how it could so difficult to take someone’s order, grab the food and drink from the minimum wage cookers in the back, receive and exchange payment, put the food in a bag and hand it to me…all within 4 minutes. There is no reason it should take 12 mins to complete this transaction…a one legged monkey on crutches could do it in 9.
7) The Mountains of Trash Stacked on the Streets — I am amazed at how much trash this city accumulates in a day. Every night, I feel like there is a life-sized replica of either the Rocky, Appalachian, or Swiss Mountains. It’s both impressive and disgusting at the same time.
8) $12 Domestic Beer and $13 Cigarettes — The average person drinks 4 beers at a bar so immediately, set aside $52 ($48 for the beers $4 for the tip). Say you smoke, add $13 and you’re at $65…which is at a minimum. Factor in cabs…bar hopping and late night eats and…yeah, you’re screwed.
9) Bed Bugs — my first week at my new job they found 2 bed bugs. So, they closed the office so they could fumigate the building. Normally I’d be stoked…I mean, day off on a Friday too right? But…1) It was my first week here and I didn’t get the memo – so woke up early and came to work to find it was closed…and 2) it’s bed bugs…in an office…WTF?!?
10) Having your would be Supervisor (who was also a big influence in relocating and accepting the job)…tell you he’s resigned the first week of work
*OH! And let me give a special honorary mention to World Moving Services (1-888-742-6683) for fuggin’ up EVERY single part of the transpor process! Shout outs to Thomas xt.405, Lamar xt.403, Danny xt. 311, Samuel xt. 208 and Cheryl xt. 314