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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 1 -
The Way There
Once I received the notification that my work visa was approved, all I needed to do was to FedEx my passport to the Consulate General in Los Angeles, to have them affix the work visa. I received the notice on Friday, December 12th, 2008. I sent my passport to L.A. on the same day. The Consulate received it Monday and when they went to send it back to me, realized that I had forgotten to prepay the self addressed FedEx envelope I had sent along with the passport. OOOPS! Big mistake on my part.... so I called FedEx and tried to get them to pick up the passport at the Consulate office, but because the Consulate is open only from 9 am to Noon, and I had to give FedEx a 3 hour window in the afternoon to pick up the package, that wasn't going to work. This is happening Monday evening and I needed the package to be picked up Tuesday, in order for me to receive it Wednesday.... Thursday was Christmas Day so if I didn't get it Wednesday, I wasn't going to get it before Friday. I needed to be on a plane in November, everyday was critical. So I finally got UPS to do it. From now on, I will use UPS over FedEx every chance I get....

So I finally get my passport back with the work visa in it... Yahoo! I email my Turkish employer to tell him I'm ready to board a plane.... thinking that I would probably fly out of Idaho Falls (which is the nearest airport without trying to get over Teton Pass elevation 8,431' in the middle of winter) on Friday... the day after Christmas. He gives me a call early Christmas morning to tell me he has booked a flight out of Las Vegas at 9 am Friday. Hmmm.... I'm in Driggs, where the nearest airport is an hour drive away and I need to be in Vegas the next morning.... I do some serious research and find a flight combination that would put me in Vegas at 6 pm that night. Whew! Lucky me... except that the entire mountain west region of the US was experiencing a severe winter storm, with officially blizzard conditions where I was. I would be lucky to fly anywhere. By the time I got the call and found a combination of flights that would work, it was almost noon and the flight I needed to catch left at 1:10. . . just enough time to get packed and make it to Idaho Falls. . . except we're in the midst of a blizzard.

I didn't want Joanne to have to drive back home alone, so I called a cab (of which there are very few in the entire Driggs/Jackson area) and was fortunate enough to have him tell me he could do it. He arrives at the house, I load my 3 bags (keep in mind that I'll be gone for over 5 months...) and have a tearful goodbye on Christmas morning with Joanne. Well, we get no further than 3 miles down the road when the cab has mechanical problems. I make sure the driver takes me home because no matter how bad I want to fly balloons in Turkey, I am NOT going to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard! I felt lucky to get back home, the way the cab was running.

So now, it looks like I'll miss my flight.... I call Joanne and tell her the story and that I'll be back home in the same ten minutes that I've been gone. Once I get home, I find out that my flight out of I.F has been cancelled because of weather anyway. Luckily, there is one other flight out and it leaves 3 hours later. Now I have time to get there, even in a blizzard! I call the other cab company and he tells me he can do it, but not for about an hour. No problem, that leaves me two hours to get there which should be doable, even considering the weather. He shows up an hour later and (after ANOTHER, more tearful goodbye) I get to the airport in Idaho Falls about 40 minutes before scheduled departure. Perfect!

Now, because of the cancelled flight, I'm not going to get to Vegas until 9 pm (instead of the original 6 pm) . . . no problem, still plenty of time to catch the morning flight. Except that when I get to Salt Lake City, the connection to Vegas has been delayed... by about 6 hours.... I finally get to Vegas at 2:30 am.... and need to be at the airport no later than 8 am.... tempted to sleep in the airport, I did get a hotel room and caught the 7 am shuttle to the airport (on 3 hrs sleep). The flight out of Vegas was uneventful. We arrived in Chicago about 5 minutes late, but I had two hours until the flight to Istanbul left. Had a bite to eat, went to the gate and about the time we were to be boarding, the announcement came that the flight had been delayed for 30 minutes. Then 30 minutes later, another announcement about another delay, and another.... 2 or 2 and half hours later, they announce that the flight had been cancelled. Oooh boy.... a riot almost erupted... in fact, the Chicago police had to be called to restore order at the ticket counter where 300+ people were frantically trying to put their trip back together.... me? I was really getting used to this type of thing .... I finally got on a flight that left about 2 hours after the announcement of cancellation. So I'm leaving for Turkey about 4 hours late.... and now, instead of flying directly to Istanbul, I go to Munich first... and wait for 6 hours for the flight to Istanbul... (beginning to wonder if I'll ever get there? I was . . . ) Once I get on the plane to Munich, I was at least able to get a few more hours of sleep. Not much, as sleeping on an airplane is difficult at best, but I was tired. We get to Munich and I go to call my employer and find out that the hassle I went through a month before to get international calling on my cell phone wasn't worth it because my phone is not working.... great, I'm stuck in Munich and can't even tell anyone what's going on or anything. No one, not Joanne, not my Turkish employer, not a single person who knows me, knows where I am or what has happened to get me here. It truly is beginning to seem like I'm in the Twilight Zone. Luckily, the experience of having your international flight cancelled was shared by about 300 people... so I had made 5 or 6 new friends from the fiasco in Chicago.... one of them also had AT&T as their cell provider and he had a number for me to call. Once I got that straightened out, I called my employer and worked out final transportation once I got to Istanbul. Because I would be arriving in Turkey no earlier than 10 pm (instead of the original 11 am) there would be no flights to Kapadokya until mid day the next day. So he picked me up at the Istanbul airport and we drove by car to Kapadokya... about a 7 hour ride.... because of the long drive and the fact that he had been in Istanbul since that morning... we stopped at one of his friends inns along the way. We got fed (my first meal in Turkey) and slept for about 4 hours. Back on the road early in the morning, I finally arrived in Kapadokya at about 4 pm Sunday afternoon local time. I had left my house at 3 pm Thursday..... For a trip that should have taken around 22 hours of travel time, it took me nearly 40 (subtracting the 9 hour time difference) ..... but hey.... I got there alive and well, although very, very tired.
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