Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Break in Istanbul!

I guess this is where I'm supposed to write about my trip and all the cool things I saw..
Well the stories begin no further than customs in Turkey. Britton and I went straight through, Irfan wasn't so lucky. They went through his passport with a magnifying glass making sure it was legit; asked him tons of questions like where he was from, where he "bought" his passport and where he parents were from. After about a half hour, we went back over to him to see what's going on (this is after the 8 armed guards left him). They asked if we were with him and obviously said yes.. so they took our passports too. After taking Irfan into the back and interrogating him some more, including asking him to sign a blank paper to compare the signatures, they let us go through. An hour after that mess began, we grabbed our bags and found the driver that was taking us to the hotel (this is all at around 1am, btw)

The hotel was pretty nice.. really small though. But for the price, cleanliness and proximity to everything, the size was OK with me. The Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, metro station and many other things were only about a 5 minute walk down the street.

Because of our late arrival, the next day we got a pretty late start. We had some really good local food and walked around this nice little park (that was an accident, we were looking for the Basilica Cistern). We finally made it and realized it was hiding in plane sight. Basically, it's an underground water basin kept to make sure the church (later turned into a mosque) above it had water. I'm not sure of the exact story of it, though.

We did some shopping; looked at some nice carpets and Irfan fell in love with a baby lamb leather jacket. This begins my new addiction to Turkish apple tea. Everywhere you go, they give you turkish tea. Usually they just give it to you unless you're in a cafe or something, then you obviously order it. Its delicious and I ended up buying a few packages of it to take home.

The next day we went to the Hagia Sophia (pronounced hi-ya sophia). This place was pretty amazing. I didn't read too much about it, so I couldn't tell you much, but I do know it was originally and orthodox patriarchal basilica, later turned mosque, later turned museum. This place is amazing! It's so absolutely beautiful and you can spend hours in it looking at all the architecture and calligraphy.

Of course on this day we also walked around the streets, ate some amazing food and just had a good time. We were standing in this courtyard when we ran into one of the guys that sells the leather jackets Irfan was looking at. They talked some prices and we went back. After some more negotiation, they were still on different pages about the prices and we left empty handed. 

For the third day, we decided to take a pre planned tour with a tour company. We saw a company in one of the areas we were in a lot and picked out one that looked good. It was an all day tour that picked you up from your hotel and provided lunch for 65 Euro/140 Lira/ $110. We started at the castle of 7 towers, which, mom, close your eyes for the next sentence, is a liability waiting to happen. It was really cool to see it, though. It's not a castle, its a fort, I'm not sure why they insist on calling it a castle. You can go up on the walls where the guards would be, but there are no railings or walls to keep you from falling off.. nor are there railings on the flimsy staircases going up or down (don't worry, we only lost a few people at that stop)

Next was the Chora museum. Not too exciting, just a small church with a lot of mosaic artwork. There was a small cafe outside and some more shops, but nothing extravagant happened here.

Then onto Pierre Loti Hill. We parked the bus and took cable cars to the top of this incredibly steep hill. It had a great view and we took some pictures then went into a cafe for some turkish coffee and tea (are you beginning to see where my addiction came from yet?).  

Next was lunch; more turkish kabobs. Then the Rustempasha mosque; just another mosque. The next stop was the spice bazaar. We only had about a half hour to walk around inside and told specifically to meet back at 2:20. There were only 6 of us to begin with and 3 of them didn't show back up. We waited for a bit longer but had to leave them behind because next was a Bosphorus cruise that we couldn't miss. The Bosphous river connects the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara (basically the Mediterranean to the Black sea). This was nice to just sit back and watch both the European side and the Asian side with a tour guide who could tell us about all the buildings on either side. 

That pretty much sums up that day. Busy, but a lot of fun.

The final two days consisted of meeting up with Caitlin and Irfana (each on a different day), going to the grand bazaar (some serious bargaining was going on there), the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. 

So after a great 5 days in Istanbul, we headed home. Unfortunately this meant we got back to our dorms at around 8am..  So I slept most of the next day :-)

All in all it was a great trip, and one of the best spring breaks ever. Definitely worth the expense! 

As always, there are tons of pictures on my facebook, so check them out! If you don't have a facebook, I can send you some if you'd like!

Ma'a salama! 


Friday, April 1, 2011

I just wanted to experience Sharjah's hospital!

After a great competition in Dubai, I spent the next few days in the hospital. I've had an abscess in my lower back for a few days, and stubborn me waited until the pain became unbearable to actually see a doctor about it. I finally did late Saturday night. I saw the dorm nurse and she immediately took me to the health clinic and called a doctor. She gave me some pain killers, antibiotics and told me to come back first thing in the morning.

The next morning (Sunday) right upon entering the health clinic, I was reexamined. Anna was called and I was promptly put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital. The "emergency surgery" was going to have to wait a few hours for insurance to be taken care of. This was such a nightmare. My primary insurance back in the states, although an international plan, would not cover it up front. In my state of pain, I didn't care to pay. I would have handed them cash if it would have moved things along faster. But alas, we waited, made phone calls, and found out the MexEx insurance (the student insurance that we had to buy through ISEP) would cover everything upfront.

A few hours later, I was laying in a very nice private hospital room waiting for the anesthesiologist to knock me out. Before I knew it, I was waking up in the middle of the night covered in bandages, pain-free and slightly loopy. The doctor finally came back to talk to me in the morning and told me exactly what was going on. He said he drained two mugfuls of fluid from the abscess and that it was the largest abscess he's ever seen in his 30 years of surgery. I felt slightly accomplished. He also said I really should have seen a doctor a lot sooner.

I spend another 2 days in the hospital (3 days total) just laying around. Anna stayed with me the entire first day (God bless her and everything she did for me! :-) ), then she brought Caitlin, Irfan and Britton the next day, and her and Caitlin came to bring me home on Tuesday. I was so grateful for them coming, it really made me feel a lot better about everything. Linda sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers and someone sent a fruit bowl and smaller flowers, but they didn't have a card, so unfortunately I don't know who they were from.

The hospital, for the most part, was really nice. The room was great, had a nice flatscreen TV, even had a fold out bed. It was kept very clean; a woman must have come in twice a day to clean it. The nurses were friendly (some didn't speak very good english and we had a few "lost in translation" moments, but most everything got across ok) until one kicked me out.. literally. On tuesday morning, the nurse told me I would be able to leave in about 1-2 hours, so I called Anna. Her and caitlin arrived and we just waited. I was waiting for someone to discharge me so I could leave. Well one of the nurses walked in and literally, almost yelling, said "what are you still doing here?!" We all just kind of stared until I said I was waiting for someone to release me. She said she was waiting for me to go to the cashier before she would bring my medication and I could go. Not something I'm used to in the states. So I had to change, go downstairs, check out, then come back, before they would remove the needle in my hand and let me go. Every time I saw her after that she would explain how there is a breast cancer patient waiting for my room and I was supposed to leave hours ago! Well.. no one gave me any instructions! How was I supposed to know what to do?

So anyway, I came back to my dorm and spend the next day just laying around and relaxing. Now I'm stuck doing make up work and trying to catch up everything I missed. So everything is ok now, and I'll return to classes on Sunday.

Hopefully that was my first, last, and only trip to a UAE hospital!