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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 7
This is living . . .
Or is it?!
Okay, so I know I'm in Turkey and it isn't like the U.S. but I also thought that Turkey was more European and less third world. (granted, I had never been here before and didn't really know what to expect). Call me the typical spoiled American, but I totally expected to have running hot water and central heating . . . did I have either of those? uh-uh... I dunno, maybe technically we have running hot water.... at least in the summer. The hot water in our house is solar heated. So if the sun don't shine, we don't have hot water. After the first 10 days, the sun has shone exactly one day, and I was lucky enough to get to wash my hands in warm (not hot) water. It has only been in the last 3 days that the day time high temperature has reached over 35 degrees... with overcast skies of course. You can imagine how cold the water is... well, if you live in Arizona, you might not be able to imagine how cold the water is. (when in AZ I always keep drinking water in the fridge, because the tap water does not get cold).
So the weather has been cold, snowy and overcast for all but one day. No big deal, just stay inside and stay warm, right? Fine and dandy if you are independently rich and don't have to earn a living. I fly balloons for a living, and I think most of those who are reading this understand that balloons fly early in the morning. Up to this writing I have flown exactly twice, once as a passenger. It was back to back days. Both days, the high for the day did not reach 20 degrees. The day I piloted, I had the balloon inflated for 2 hours..... not to mention the 4 hours it took to retrieve the balloon after I deflated it... By the time I got home, the fires of hell couldn't have taken the chill off....
So back to what it's like at home... The sole source of heat for the house is a soba.... Turkish for pot belly stove... they're not pot bellied, but the principle is the same.
The soba in my room
Except that, in my experience growing up as a spoiled American, we burned wood. The Turks burn coal in their sobas... So everyday, twice a day, you fill a steel bucket with chunks of coal from a 50 lb bag.... stick some wood on top and put the bucket inside the soba. Next you get the bottle of propane or natural gas or whatever it is, (I haven't found out what it is yet), and turn the valve so gas is coming out the nozzle, take your match and light the torch... stick the nozzle into the soba and hold it there until the wood is burning. Once the wood is burning good, the coal will eventually light... the coal will burn for around 6 to 8 hours.... so you have a couple of hours that you need to get naked because it's so hot, and the rest of the time you spend either putting on or taking off layers of clothing, depending on whether the coal just started burning or is on it's way out.... So picture this if you will.... we come home from flying, the house is freezing because even if the soba did stay burning through the night, it's certainly out by now.... we've been standing in the cold and snow for about 3 hours (if you find the right spot to land.... don't ever not find the right spot) , and now we have to take our buckets downstairs, outside, rip open a bag of coal and fill our buckets. Take the buckets upstairs, put some wood in it, drop it in the soba and spend the next 10 minutes trying to get it lit. Have you ever been covered in coal dust? It will make you look like Al Jolson in a heartbeat.... (for those who do not know who Al Jolson is, he was an early actor famous for painting his white face black so he would look.... well . . . black) .... did I mention that there isn't any hot water to clean up with? Ahhh.... so you're starting to get the picture, eh?
(for those that aren't, click here for a picture of Al Jolson in blackface)

I get the feeling this chapter may be a tad long..... Did I forget to tell you "Don't get me started . . . "?

Okay, so enough about the soba.... at least when it's lit, it does put out heat. Let's talk about the kitchen . . . Sancho and I share the kitchen and bathroom (more on the bathroom later in this chapter) . They are both on the opposite side of the house from my room. The cold side. The very cold side. I went to pan fry some chicken yesterday and when I reached into the top cupboard to get the olive oil, I noticed (much to my chagrin) that the olive oil had frozen solid. Did I mention there is no hot water? So much for my plan to have chicken for dinner. We do have a refrigerator, although I'm not sure why... seems like a waste of electricity to me.... maybe they should take the electricity used to run the fridge and try to heat the water with it.... hmm... maybe I could patent that idea here and I wouldn't have to fly balloons! Do I need to tell you that we only use the kitchen when we're real hungry? There is no soba for the kitchen or bathroom area of the house. Those areas are both used sparingly. It actually works out, because the less I eat, the less often I need to use the bathroom. Not to mention that I could stand to lose 10 or 15 lbs anyway. Turkey is a long way to go, just to go on a diet, but hey... if nothing else is working for you.....

Actually, this really isn't the place to come if you don't want to eat. The cuisine here is fabulous. Lot's of vegetables and this time of year soups and goulash's... every corner market has fresh bread daily.... not the Wonder sliced variety either. Fresh home made bread... all different kinds... taken home like we would a french bread or something.... but all the bread is like that here. Delicious! And they eat lot's of it.. bread with every meal.... don't bother with a knife, just pick up the loaf and rip you off some! Use it as a utensil to help get that last bit of food on your fork.... interesting the different dining customs of the world. Oh yeah... if you order a salad to go with your meal.... it is served in the middle of the table and it's community property..... take your fork and dig in... before the guy across the table beats you to it.... (just like the bread, which you don't have to order)  oh, you want dressing on it? Too bad.... it's already oil and vinegar'd what more do you want? The food is really good here, it's just the custom of how you eat it that is different.

All this talk about food and I haven't mentioned the bathroom yet.... here we go. I had read, before I came over here, that the traditional bathroom did not have a commode to sit on.... they're basically a pit in the floor that you stand or squat over. They also have a small spout of water to the side that you can use to help clean your self. Toilet paper? no..... flush? no...... I think that the bathroom situation was what I was most concerned with before I got here. Well, I was right about one thing.... the bathroom is an issue, just not for the above mentioned reasons. We have a commode and it flushes wonderfully.... there is even a place to hold the toilet paper.... the problem is, it's so cold in there! Did I mention there's no hot water? And no shower curtain. It's not a real shower anyway, just a handheld spout on a cord type of thing.... but the tub is so cold, you can't stand in it with bare feet, much less sit down in it naked.... at least the shower does have a small electrical unit attached so there is hot water there... The basin to wash in, is about a foot below the spouts that the water comes out of. So no matter what you do, you end up soaking wet from the belt up.....
I don't want to sound like I hate it here, or that I'm unhappy or complaining too much. I just want to bring those who want to romanticize what I'm doing, back to earth a little bit. Yeah the flying part is cool, but there are certainly certain things about being here that make life more difficult. Overall, so far, I like it. After six months, I might change my mind, but this is the type of experience I've always enjoyed.

So I've spent the last couple of days not flying, sitting at home trying to get this web site up so you all can enjoy Turkey at my expense, and I just had to vent about the living conditions. I will adapt and everything will be fine.

The next chapter will be about my trip tomorrow (1/7/09) to Kebab, to get my Turkish medical certificate....
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