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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 33
Shop Till You Drop Ship
One of the activities Joanne and I did before we left Kapadokya, was souvenir shop. There were lots of people to shop for and time was running out. Yes, we still had a week in western Turkey, but for a lot of folks, I wanted something from Kapadokya, since that is where I spent most of my time and it was why I was here in the first place. Well, that's one thing that isn't hard to find in Kapadokya, souvenir shops. Problem is, most of them carry exactly the same stuff. Most of them likely have a different price, but the merchandise is all the same. A good variety of types of souvenirs, just that once you've seen a shop, you've seen almost all of them. And if the merchant knows you're looking, it can be one of the hardest sells you've ever been exposed to. Think used car salesman times a hundred. It got so bad, we dreaded trying to find something for the last couple of people on our list. Not that we didn't want to get them something, but it meant going on to another lot, so to speak.

I am going to digress just a bit here, while I mention souvenir shopping. I've told you, all the shops (well most of them anyway) are the same. Every once in a while one will have some things that are a little bit different but mostly they're the same. Because of that, I was having a very hard time finding something for one of my sisters. You see, she has been collecting tigers since I can remember. It's to the point that to find her anything tigerish that is different from something she already has is difficult. Well, I didn't care if the tiger I got her was similar to something she already had, the one I got her would be from Turkey, and I know she doesn't have any Turkish tiger anythings. Well, now I know why. They don't have tigers in Turkey. Seriously, it's not just the real animals that aren't here, but there are no toys, stuffed animals, carved figurines, anything. In fact, every time I asked for a tiger, I was shown a lion. THAT will tell you something! So I had just about given up and had decided to give her a camel and call it a Turkish Tiger. One day, while Jo and I were in Nevşehir we went into what amounts to the equivalent of the dollar store. Again, just looking around not really expecting to find anything, but more to try to get an idea for something else to get her. I go up and down every single aisle. We go upstairs and I see a suitcase for cheap and realize we're gonna need another one to get everything home, so I pick it up. We come back downstairs and when I get to the last aisle, the only one I haven't gone down yet, what do I see? A tiger!! WOW! I can't believe it! It isn't really the right color and almost looks lionish except it's striped. It's a tiger, but a poor example of one. Still, it will have to do. As I call Jo over to show her, I turn around to walk towards the checkout counter when I see another one! This one is a tiger. Right color and everything, a little larger than your normal size stuffed animal, but it's made as though it were lying on the ground except for it's front legs. The front legs are limp, so if you were to put this thing on a mantle or some sort of ledge the front legs would dangle. Kinda cool, definitely different. I throw that first tigerish thing I saw down and grab this one. I don't even look, I don't care how much it costs, I know I won the lottery now! As I'm walking towards the counter, one of the workers comes up to me and goes to grab the tiger. I spin around as fast as I can and I think I might even have snarled at the poor guy. I wasn't going to let this thing out of my sight! (All he wanted to do was show me something I might never have known if he hadn't of took the time to show me.) Obviously the fastest I can spin around isn't fast enough, as the guy grabs the front legs of the thing and as soon as he does, this growling roar comes from somewhere deep inside this stuffed animal. COOL! He shows me how to activate the "voicebox". COOL! Now I am thrilled! I've won the lottery and don't have to pay the taxes! We get back on the bus to Uçhisar carrying a suitcase and a stuffed tiger. People looked at me strange before this.... you should have seen some of the looks I was getting now. Well, it's only a 30 minute ride back home and I've got the only tiger in Turkey! If you happen to know my sister, ask to see this thing. It's unusual and believe me, as hard as it was to find, it must be somewhat rare.

So we're feeling pretty good, like we've been pretty sucessful considering our souvenir shopping (for those who didn't get anything, come visit me, I probably kept it :-)) , and then we realize. . . . how are we gonna get all this stuff home?!? Yep, we're going to have to send some of it home ahead of us. Luckily Joanne had sent a care package or two so we had a couple of small boxes, but they weren't going to fit everything. More importantly, where is the DHL office? Well, I had talked to a couple of the locals I had met while here and eventually found out that the United Parcel Service (UPS) had an office in Avanos. That's closer than Nevşehir, and smaller which would make the place easier to find also (or so we thought) . We made sure to buy the things we knew that wasn't going to fit in our luggage and get it all boxed up during Joannes first week there, while I still had the rental car. Good thing, as the trunk was about full (granted, it was a very small car) when we finally headed for the UPS store. I had what I thought was pretty good directions (and for the smart alecks out there, no my gps didn't have this particular UPS store on it, I AM in Turkey!) but when we got into Avanos and drove to where I was told it should be, it wasn't there. Actually it was there, we just didn't see it until about the 4th time we drove by it. And to call this a UPS "store" is misleading. For one, I was surprised UPS was in this area at all. I really thought I would have to use DHL, which is prevalent in Europe. I chose to use UPS believing that if the packages ever got to the US, UPS would have a better idea of where they go from there. Secondly, this particular "branch" located in Avanos, was new. Brand new. Brand spanking new. So new, that the only things in this place were a desk with a phone on it (later, I found out the phone had only been there a few days) . The young guy that was working there was nice enough. He just didn't speak any English. None. Not even my pocket translation dictionary was much help. I'd have to look up a word, show him the word in the dictionary, then he would look up his response (one word at a time) and show that to me. Back and forth we went like that until he understood I had a package to go to Amerika. He made a couple of phone calls, then it was more passing the dictionary back and forth, coupled with some hand signals. Oh.... I had more than one package? Some more back and forth with the dictionary some hand gesturing and he still didn't understand that I needed a box also. Finally, Joanne notices that behind the soba against the wall is a folded up box. She points to it and viola! I could literally see the light go on above his head! He goes through the door to the back room and comes back with a brand new box! High Fives all the way around! Boy, you would have thought we had just scored the winnng touchdown in the Super Bowl!
Feeling pretty good about our communication success (after all, it only took 90 minutes to get a box and explain where it was going) , we proceed to start packing the box. Uh oh.... we need another. Well this time, all we need to do is point to the box and he gets it. So now we have three boxes all packed and ready to ship. Uh oh.... I forgot that I wanted to ship some Raki home. Just like here in the states, shipping alcohol is a no-no. Okay, fine, I was just trying to get it home without drinking it. So we unwrap the box that has the Raki in it and re-pack it. Okay... now we're ready! By this time, another UPS guy has shown up, I think that was the first phone call the young guy made, and he at least speaks some English. Actually, his English is pretty good. At one point, the second guy, the one who speaks English, is on a cell phone in one ear and the office land line in the other ear. I think all we're trying to do here is determine where the packages are going. Specifically I mean, not just to Amerika, but where in Amerika. While this is going on, the first guy takes his 1940's vintage, hand held, spring loaded fish scale out to weigh the packages. A little bit more hand gesturing and passing the dictionary back and forth and we're all done! Good thing I didn't have anything else to do today. After 3 hours in the UPS office, (not to mention the 45 minutes and 4 or 5 laps around the village just to find the place) Joanne and I walk out $300 poorer and seriously wondering if the packages will ever make it out of Avanos. $300 is about 300 times what we paid for all the souvenirs together! If it hadn't been such a Keystone Kops hilariously screwed up scene in the office I might have been upset, but to this day, that's one the things I know I'll never forget. Just the effort it took to get the stuff home. Just like everything else about this trip, you had better really want to do it bad, because it ain't gonna be easy.
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