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These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 8
My Medical
Some of you aren't going to believe the story I'm about to tell . . . In fact, it's hard for me to believe it, except that this actually happened to me.
Before I begin, to put this story in perspective, you need a little background information. Consider this a preface.
In the United States, (Amerika to the Turks) , it is not required to have a physical examination to fly balloons. For any other type of aircraft, pilots are required to hold a valid "medical certificate". Since I fly balloons and balloons only, I did not have, nor was I required to have, a medical certificate. Well, early in my communication with Alper (the guy who hired me to fly over here) , he mentioned that I would need to send him my medical certificate (along with several other documents including my logbook and pilot's license) . Along the way, he asked how I was coming along with sending the documents to him, because he had another pilot lined up and was going to hire him if I couldn't get him the documents within the next week. I had just returned home from the 10 day long Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and had almost gathered all the necessary documents. The only thing I needed was a medical certificate.
So I make an appointment at the local medical center (keep in mind that by local I mean Driggs, ID which is a village... okay, town... of less than 2000) . I told them I was a pilot and needed a pilot's medical certificate. (Alper, the boss.... was very clear in that my medical needed to be from an accredited state hospital. What's more official than a pilot's medical certificate, right? Especially since I didn't even need one) . So I'm lucky enough to get an appointment for the next day. I explain to Alper that because I don't need a medical to fly in the States, that I don't currently have one and have make an appointment. I would be able to send him the documents within the next two days. (I was hoping he wouldn't hire someone else, as I had really wanted to come here to fly for a few years) . So the next day, I head down to the medical center for my appointment. I walk in, tell the receptionist I'm there and sit down. I'm about 5 minutes early is all, so I'm expecting about a 30 minute wait... I no sooner sit down and the doctor comes out and says "I'm sorry, I'm not qualified by the FAA to give pilot medical exams." He explained how as a doctor, what you have to go through to be certified by the FAA to do pilot medical exams. He is in the process, but right now couldn't do it. "Okay, can anyone here in Teton Valley do it? I'm in a bind here and need it ASAP." He went on to explain that there was no one within a 30 mile radius. There was only one doctor in Jackson that was qualified. (I'm thinking "great, I don't even need this to fly here, but because I can't get one today or tomorrow, I won't be able to go to Turkey!") . So the medical center was kind enough to call Dr. Blue (who is also a pilot) and see how soon he could get me in. What luck! He can fit me in today! WOW! Now do you think for one minute that if I was dying of malaria or something that they would be able to fit me in the same day I call? Anyway, I'm feeling very lucky... but I still need to get to Jackson (45 minutes away) by 1:00 pm. So I rush home, and rush over to Jackson. Dr. Blue does my exam, I fill out the paper work, and I'm on the way home with my medical by 3:00 pm. COOL! I get home, gather all the documents and package them up to send to Turkey. The next morning I will go to Jackson (again) to FedEx the docs.

I'm going to diverge a bit here and tell you the short story of just trying to send the documents over there.

So I had done my online research and tried to get everything done via the web. Unfortunately, the address I had in Ankara, didn't contain a valid postal code for either UPS or FedEx so I couldn't complete the shipment online. I had to go in to a store somewhere. Well, Driggs doesn't have anything like that other than pick up spots. So back to Jackson I go.... luckily they have both a UPS store and a FedEx store. My online research had determined that UPS was going to be cheaper, so I went there first. I had called before I left, giving them the address and everything and he had quoted me price a delivery date and everything. Well, when I get there, his computer does the same thing mine did, saying that there wasn't a valid postal code. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this is a Saturday. Anyway, UPS couldn't help me and suggested I go to the Post Office and get the postal code... I rush to get over there before they close and the 10 minutes I waited in line seemed like forever. Then it was my turn to get helped. I stood at the counter long enough that they opened a window just for me so everyone else could get helped. Ten minutes in line seemed like a blink of an eye. Bottom line was they couldn't help me either. They could at least get it there, but couldn't guarantee any sooner than 2 weeks. I went to the FedEx shop next. I get to the FedEx shop about 3 hours after I arrived in Jackson, to mail one envelope.... FedEx took the package and guaranteed no later than 8 days. So 4 hours and $65 later, the package is on it's way. I couldn't believe how difficult it was just to send mail over there. It should have served as a warning to me....

So now.... back to the medical story.....

So I luck out and get my medical. Well lucky yes, but it did cost me $185. I'm here in Turkey (and have already flown as pilot once) for 9 days, when the boss calls (at 9 pm) and says that tomorrow morning at 5:45 am a couple of the crew will pick me up and drive to Kebap. The Turkish government (CAA) has not accepted my US medical certificate so I need to get one here. In my head I'm saying "Wait a minute... I spend $185 (Not to mention the hassle and gas and time) to get a medical certificate I don't need just so I can come over to fly, and now you tell me it's no good?!?! Why did you bother having me get one in the first place?!?!. But I hold my tongue because there really is nothing I can do about it now, other than go to Kebap and get a medical certificate.
I arise nice and early the next morning and get ready to go. It will be about a 3 hour drive, so I grab my camera also, not knowing what I will see or not see. I walk downstairs to wait for the guys to pick me up at about 5:40... since they are supposed to be there at 5:45. Get ready, here is where the story starts. Of course they are late... it isn't too cold out (between 35 and 40) and the rain is very light... I stand there for about 20 minutes when I think about going back in to wait for them. Oooops... I don't have a key. I don't want to wake Sancho by ringing the bell so I just stand and wait in the rain. They finally pick me up about 6:20. I get in the car and there is only one guy. I didn't say anything but I was told there would be two of them. Then instead of heading out of town, we go down to the office. I get out and everyone else starts to get ready to fly. (Sancho was scheduled to fly, but with the rain I didn't think he would. The preparations to fly kind of surprising me) . So I wait in front of the office for another 30 minutes at least. Two hours after I first stood out in the rain. Okay, well at least now I'm in the car and have 3 hours to just relax and enjoy the countryside. About 10 minutes into the ride, the driver turns around and says we're going to Adana, not Kebap. It's still about a 3 hour drive but in the opposite direction. (Kebap is to the NW near Ankara, Adana is almost directly south near the Mediterranean Sea) . No problem, I don't really care it's just that everything I've been told has been wrong. My imagination is beginning to take over and I wonder if maybe I'm being abducted or something. Neither of my guides/caretakers/captors speaks more than two words of English.
There is only 6 miles difference,
but they're in opposite directions
A mountain near the town of Pozanti. Not the shot I wanted but we were travelling about 80 mph Pozanti is a beautiful town stuck at the base of the Taurus Mtns.

The drive is quite pleasant through very scenic countryside, including the Taurus Mtns. The driver has his foot in it and we arrive in about 2.5 hours. Once we get to Adana (a city of over 1 million) we stop every 2 blocks or so and ask people on the street for directions. (I'm deducing this, as all the conversations were in Turkish, but the driver kept showing a piece of paper with an address on it) . Someone would give some directions and we'd head that way then stop and ask again. By the time we got to the hospital, it was 11:00. We park, walk in and find out we're in the wrong place. More driving for 2 blocks and asking directions until we get to another hospital. Again, the wrong one.... more driving for blocks at time between stopping and asking for directions. We finally get to another hospital and my guides/captors ask at a couple of different places before we end up in front of this window for about 45 minutes. Evidently it was the right place as we got a piece of paper with my picture on it. (I assume admission documents) . It's now 12:30 in the afternoon, so we go across the street to eat. Evidently we have to be back at 1:00 as one of my comrades had indicated for me to hurry and finish my lunch. We walk back across the street and proceed to walk around the hospital campus going from this place to that and then back to where we were. The halls were so packed with people waiting to see a doctor that you couldn't get through. We walk from one place to to the other and back again at least 5 times. I don't know if these guys are lost or what's going on. Finally, a door opens and I'm ushered in. I sit down in front of a lady behind a desk and she say's hello. She ask's my name, says "welcome to Adana" and then asks "How are you?" I reply "I'm fine..... iy iyimm" (I'm well in Turkish) I think she was impressed with my feeble attempt at speaking the language because she says "You're normal?" and when I reply yes she signs her name on the paper, gives it a stamp and I'm done. I walk out of the office thinking "is that it?" It wasn't..... More walking from here to there... then.... a door opens and I'm ushered in. This time there is a man at a desk that I sit in front of. He takes his instrument and looks in both of my ears. Asks if I have any problems and when I say no he say's okay, signs the paper stamps it and I'm done. Again, I think "Is that all?" It wasn't... more walking from here to there.... another door opens and I'm ushered in... this time the "doctor" takes his stethoscope and listens to my lungs as I breathe.... he signs and stamps the paper and I'm done. I walk out thinking "Okay, now I get it.. I'm going to see one doctor for each thing they want to check. This could take a while." It does. More walking from here to there and another door opens for me to go through. This time I don't sit down. The doctor has me stand and hold my arms out in front of me. He has me stretch my fingers out and then clinch them into a fist. I do this like 3 times. He says okay, signs and stamps the paper and I'm done. I'm thinking "What the hell was that? Is that really part of the exam?" It was. More walking to and fro.... a door opens, I go in. This guy has me lift my shirt to show my Tarzan chest. He say's okay, signs and stamps the paper and I walk out. This time I'm not thinking anything but "that guy only does his job because half the time it's women in his office. Freakin' perv!" More of the same.... the next person I see has me extend my arms and do the fist thing again. I walk out thinking, "What a joke! It wasn't. More to and fro.. more waiting. Finally a door opens and I go in. My immediate reaction was, "Wow, a real doctor. This time she checked my eyes. By covering one eye and having me read 3 letters in a column. She covers the other eye and has me read a different column of 3 letters. That's it... she signs the paper, stamps it and I walk out laughing. I try to tell my captors/guides that in Amerika, it only takes one doctor to do all this.... not only that, but they actually check me for glaucoma and other eye problems. They actually make me turn my head and cough... you know, they actually do a physical exam. Then I realize by their dumbfounded look that they don't understand a word I'm saying... I start laughing again, this time shaking my head. The good news is we're done.... at this place. Now we hop in a taxi. I'm wondering why we don't take the car we came in.... we head back into town by where the other two hospitals were. I just happen to notice the piece of paper that one of my "buddies" gave to the cab driver.... on top in big letters is EEG. Wondering why a big prominent state hospital can't give me an EEG, I enjoy the same sights of the city that I saw a few hours ago.
All of these pics were shot from the back seat, out the window, as the car was moving
I spotted this mosque early after arrival in Adana. It was unusual to me because it has six minarets. Most of them have one or two, the bigger ones have 4. This one has 6.
A closer look at the huge mosque in Adana
A close up of the entry to the mosque reveals this public fountain. Not a decorative fountain but a place to drink.... and wash
We get dropped off at an office building right downtown. My two companions look at the piece of paper and up at the building. I look up at the building and notice 3 signs. Each for a doctor. Each of them have the word "psykiatry" on it. (I know I don't know the language, but I can figure this one out) I'm figuring that they felt that since they couldn't find anything wrong after such a "thorough" examination, there must be something wrong in my head.... Again, we walk around the building asking people for directions or maybe asking if they've ever had an EEG, I don't really know what the conversations were. All I really know is that these two looked really lost all the time. Imagine how lost I must have looked. We finally find the correct psychiatrists office and go in. Some Turkish conversation (I hear "Amerikan") and everyone laughs. No one here speaks any English. I'm led into a room and sit on the hospital bed. The doctor connects 21 different wires to my head, using a white substance that I swear is half Brilcream and half Elmer's glue. What seems like 10 minutes later and the wires are connected. I'm told to lay down and close my eyes. (Just to get me to understand that took 10 minutes) . An hour later after some open your eyes, close your "capella's", breath like this, now breath normal and 10 minutes of some bright flashing light (luckily while my eyes are closed)(also lucky I don't have epilepsy) I was done. Before I walk out I think "I feel like Frakensteins' monster. This is all I need, for them to see my brain waves and know what I'm thinking about this whole thing. I'll never get to fly here." By the time I walked out of the psychiatrists office, it is about 4:30 pm. We find a place to eat, (again after much to and fro) and head back to the psychiatrist. I think she must've not signed and stamped the paper or something. Because the elevator is too small in that building, the "lead honcho" went up first. By the time I got there with my other "friend", the conversation was all but over. So we turn around and leave. This to and fro thing and not understanding conversations as to why we are wandering to and fro has gotten me quite worn out. After leaving the shrink for the last time, I am told we are going to spend the night in Adana and will leave for home at 10:00 am the next day. Mixed emotions at that, because on the one hand, I had brought nothing with me and most of all was going to miss my evening video call with Joanne. (For those who don't know Joanne, she is my girlfriend, (you can click here for a picture of her) and the twice daily video chats have become a lifesaver for me) . On the other hand, a chance to experience a city and part of the country that I didn't expect to get to see, and maybe... just maybe.... the hotel would have a shower with hot water! Of course after I was told we were going to stay in Adana (and I had really started dreaming, no . . . fantasizing . . . of the hot shower) , we drove back and forth, with many cell phone conversations (in Turkish of course) for quite some time. Finally we pull up to a corner where a man is standing, and I think they're just going to ask directions again, but they get out and after about 30 seconds of talking, give this guy the paper we spent all day getting signed and stamped! I swear.... it was straight out of the movies.... I have no idea who this man was or why they gave him the paper or anything... all I know is it sure seemed.... uh... clandestine. They got back in the car, gave me a high five and said we would be going back to Uçhisar tonight after all. Once again, I get told something and then something different happens. It's okay, I was rather tired and it did feel good to get home, even though it was 11:00 pm. Of course, then I had to deal with getting the soba going..... But that was yesterday. Today was beautiful... sunny and (relatively) warm, about 45 degrees. Most of the snow is gone and the supposedly hot water isn't nearly as cold... you can actually hold your hands under it for a minute or two. I didn't bother lighting the soba until almost 6 pm tonight. Tomorrow I get to fly!
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