Report No. 12. Day 20, 21 and 22.

Day 20 of 22. Friday, October 6, 2000. From the Tarabya Hotel in Istanbul to Cihan's Apartment in Golcuk

We have our free (included) hotel breakfast, finish packing up and call the bellman to take our five pieces to temporary storage, where we will pick them up later. "I'm on it," he says in English. I'm not sure I got the words right, so I explain again, in slightly different words. "Don't worry, I'm on it," he says, this time very clear. We pay the bill, turn in our key and sit down to wait for Tara and Cihan. They show up shortly with their six bags. The bellman starts bringing out our five bags, but Cihan explains that we want all 11 of the bags in temporary storage. He gets on it

Celin wants to go shopping with us today, but there is a problem. She can't find her car keys. After some discussion, since we want her to go with us too, we pick her up with baby Kaan, and we're off to the world-famous (except that I had never heard of it before planning this trip) Covered Bazaar. We are a collective shopping machine, with Cihan doing the bargaining. Sharon has noticed something that Cihan sometimes does, so she wants to get in on the action. After Cihan makes a deal for about a dozen blue eyes (to ward off evil eye spells), and when they have ALMOST concluded the deal, Sharon throws in another blue eye of a slightly different type and points to it. The proprietor and Cihan both laugh, Cihan says some more stuff, and the guy accepts the new "offer." Cihan says Sharon has earned her (bargaining) diploma, then we all laugh.

"We buy a bunch more stuff" sums up the next couple of hours, and then it's time to implement our plan to get four of us plus 11 bags to Cihan's place in Golcuk. Step 1 is to drive Cihan and Tara to the bus station. But in reality, this means drive them to the ferry boat. They will take this across the Bosphorus, take a small bus to the big bus station, then take a big bus to Golcuk. There, they will wait for us at the pizza parlor next to the familiar Oypa grocery and department store. We wave Gule Gule to them, and then deliver Celin and baby Kaan to her place. I have driven around enough that I now know the way to get from our hotel to the north bridge, and to the fast highway towards Golcuk. Once we get away from Istanbul, it's a piece of kek. That's Turkish for what you're thinking it is.

We say goodbye to Celin and Kaan and head for the hotel to pick up our stored luggage. That's only about ten minutes away, but as I'm "sardine-ing" the bags into the car, I notice that Celin has left her purse in the back seat, on the deck behind the seat where it was easy to miss. We pack up everything else (it's a full flight), then take Celin her purse. On the way, Sharon wonders how we're going to recognize their button to push, of all the buttons of all the apartments in the tall building. I don't REMEMBER their last name, but I'm pretty sure if it's a "multiple choice" test, I can RECOGNIZE it. Sharon is juberous. But when we walk up to the button array, one button says in huge upper case letters, "BORA, CELIN, KAAN and TAIKO, their dog." Problem solved. We ring, and Celin comes downstairs. She hadn't even realized that she didn't have her purse. That's how it goes when you have a little Kaan.

We say goodbye again, and take off, cross the north bridge, make all the right moves to get to the highway along the Marmar Sea. This is the part that's great. You know, after you do something very tedious, and you're not quite sure you are going to get it done on time or done right? Then you do, and for an hour or an afternoon, you just relax on the couch, listening to music or reading a book. About ten times, saying "Ahhhh," out loud, smiling to yourself. Ahhhhh. We know how to stay on the highway and get to the Izmit/Bursa turnoff.

OK, I lied. I'm not really that relaxed. I've been trying to hustle us along all day, so that we wouldn't be driving around in Golcuk in the dark, trying to find the Oypa. Or trying to find Golcuk, for that matter. It's Friday evening, there's a TON of traffic, and it's almost dark as we make the turnoff toward Izmit. There is a terrible toll station when you get off the highway just before Izmit, and it takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to get through it. Inefficient is the word.

Then we get lost twice in the dark and heavy traffic, largely huge trucks. But having Sharon on the map, and stopping to ask directions (Bu Nerede? - Where is this?), we finally get on the right road, and pull into the Oypa about an hour later than I had estimated. "Right on time!" Cihan smiles as we walk up to Tara and Cihan. They've just finished their pizza. While Sharon and I eat some very strange hamburgers, they take the car to Cihan's place and take about half of the luggage upstairs. Then they drive back and get us. We all go shopping in the Oypa, and Sharon finds some great tea glasses and saucers, just like the ones we've been using the last three weeks. We also buy some groceries and stuff for tomorrow. Then we go back to Cihan's. After the three hectic days we had in Istanbul, Sharon and I resolve not to go downstairs tomorrow. We want to show our video, Sharon wants to do a laundry, and then we'll have dinner at Cihan's officers' club tomorrow evening. We're going to sleep in till, till, till at least 8 AM.

New Life Birds: None.

Life Bird Totals: Today 0. Trip, still at 94.

Impressions of the Day: Istanbul, like every other large city on earth, is terrible to drive in. If you ever get the chance to avoid driving in it, jump on it.

Day 21 of 22. Saturday, October 7, 2000. An R&R Day in Golcuk.

This is definitely a winding-down day. We get up, have a great brunch fixed by Cihan. He's a chef too, you know, and it's spectacular.

I update the report I'm working on, plus review all the birds we've seen to make sure I haven't missed any, or counted any twice. Tara and Cihan go out to show Tara around the base. We stay in. We need to do a laundry, and not for 55,000,000 lira. Cihan shows Sharon how to use the washer, and the "dryer."

The latter consists of four or five lengths of clothesline cord hanging just overhead, just out past the balcony, just off the kitchen. As a rule, people don't have indoor clothes dryers in Turkey, although some do. You sort of lean out over the edge of the balcony, and hang up your wet clothes. So Sharon wants to know, "What happens to the clothes that you accidentally drop while trying to hang them up with clothespins?" "Send Bob down after them," Cihan says. "Sometimes they go all the way to the ground, and other times they drop into a lower neighbor's balcony. Then you go knock on their door and ask for your wet clothes back." The washer is in the bathroom, and the drain is a portable one with a shepherd's hook on the end. You hang it over the edge of the toilet, and the soapy discharge drain goes there. How perfect. Sharon starts hanging the first load up, and during the course of hanging up the two or three loads, she drops not any clothes, but two clothespins.

Tara and Cihan come back and we breeze through the three video tapes I have. The first is the last 20 minutes of the tape I had going when we left home. Then the middle one is a full two hour tape. Then there is 9 minutes at the beginning of the third one. We have just a great time doing this, but at first, I don't realize that the middle 2-hour tape exists.

We go out to another great dinner at the BOQ, planning to watch the newly-discovered middle one later. On the way, Sharon spots and retrieves her two clothespins. This BOQ "bookend" dinner is perfect. Our first night here, Cihan treated us to dinner outside. And tonight, our last night in Golcuk, we eat indoors. When we get back to the apartment, we watch the middle tape, but fast forward through most of it. This is one of the best things about video tape. You can watch what you did right after you did it. Or within days anyway, if you are really having fun. But it's time to pack for tomorrow. Even though it's about half past midnight.

New Life Birds: None today.

Life Bird Totals: Still 94 for the trip.

Impressions of the Day: You know how when you haven't worked for about a month, that the next day off is pretty much ho hum. But if you've been working for 21 straight days, and you get one day off, that THAT day is the Jewel of the Universe? That's what today was like. Ahhhhh.

Day 22 of 22. Sunday, October 8, 2000. Golcuk Bus Station to Istanbul. Birding the Buyuk Camlica.

We are up at 5 AM or so, and I finish packing. We have a banana and a peach and Cihan gives us more fruit and tomatoes to take with us.

Cihan takes all his and Tara's big bags to the bus station, where he leaves them in the care of someone he knows or has just made friends with. He returns, then we load all of OUR stuff into the car. Then we load all of US into the car and go to the bus station. We review all the stuff that they're going to be doing while we wait for the bus, which arrives about 7:20 or so. It's only there about five minutes, and Cihan loads all of their luggage on board the huge yellow coach, down below. They are going first to Ankara to visit his sister Canan and Metin, then to Isparta to visit his parents. Then sooner or later, they are going down to the Turquoise Coast for a while, on the Mediterranean. Sounds fun.

I loved being with Tara and Cihan, but Ahhhh, it's Sharon and me again. We drive out of the area. There was some rain last night, and there is more this morning. We make it out to the highway with no wrong turns in the daylight, and we identify last night's problem. There was a huge traffic line over in the right hand lane, turning right for Golcuk, and it was blocking the "Turn Right for Golcuk" sign. So we missed it.

We're heading for Istanbul, but want to make one stop at Buyuk Camlica. There is also a Kucuk Camlica. "Buyuk" means big and "kucuk" means little. This is a park on a huge hill/small mountain on the Asian side of Istanbul, before we get to the Bosphorus. We chase several little warbler-type birds around with no ID, but we definitely get a number of LAUGHING DOVES. Like Mourning Doves, only no spots on the back and no neck ring, like Collared Doves. Would THIS be our last lifer? It would.

We find our way onto the south bridge, pass over, stay on the freeway, and follow the markers to the airport. There, we go around the airport, and find the hotel Cihan had made reservations for us at. After much, much, MUCH floundering on one-way streets that don't go all the way through. But our room is on the fourth floor (American), there is no lift, and we don't like it so much. We skip it and find the Cinar Hotel.

Ismail helps us offload all our stuff. He's friendly, fun, a great bellman, has been to Texas, and even drove from Houston to Dallas, in 1995. Cool. I take the car to the airport, flounder a little bit there because there is no sign with the welcome words "Rental Car Return." I ask a traffic officer, get some not-very-well-understood advice, finally park in the parking garage (called the Otopark), find National Car Rental, complain, get them to knock $100 off the bill for the lousy beginning we had with them, get a taxi, and return to the Cinar (CHEE-nahr). I had asked Ismail, and he said it should be about 2 million TL for the taxi ride. The meter came to about 1.88. I gave the driver 2 million and told the him to keep the change, but he refused. After I left him, I realized that I surely made a faux pas by trying to tip him about 18 cents.

I go back and Sharon is napping. There is a beautiful view out the window, as the hotel is right on the Marmar Sea. If I took a boat to the right, I would come to Greece. If I took it to the left, I would soon come to the Bosphorus. There are a number of birds, but they are hooded crows and gulls for the most part, with a few starlings.

We have a nice lunch in the bar. Club sandwiches and french fries, and cokes. There is a huge "raft" of small black birds way out on the water, but we need the scope to see them. Inside, we watch a big bird cage, with about eight or ten budgies in it. These are the parakeets that you could win at the carnival when I was a kid. And one pair has a nest inside a bird house, inside the cage, with six chicks. The boldest and oldest chick spends most of its time right at the opening, sometimes hopping out onto the perch. We get some video of this too. Our available Turkish video time is dwindling fast. As we are finishing off our lunch, we watch the raft of birds on the Marmar peel off and fly away, a few at a time. No, No, NOOOO! Back up to the room, but they are all gone by the time we get there.

I transcribe the rest of what's on the tape to this point, and work on the next report. There is a data center here at the Cinar, and I use it to check email. I think I even sent a report out, but I don't remember exactly. Later that evening, we have dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. I have lamb shish-ka-bob for the last time, and we top our dinner off with two huge ice cream desserts [Sharon here: for the last time, we've got to stop eating this way]. Then back to the room for packing and getting ready for tomorrow. We set the alarm for 3 AM and request a wake-up call for the same time.

New Life Birds: Laughing Dove

Life Bird Totals: Today 1. Trip and final, at 95.

Impressions of the Day: While being in a four or five-star hotel in Istanbul is elegant and you are pampered royally, it is not nearly as much fun as being out on our own, in the countryside, digging up our own hotels and eateries. But thinking about the contrasts is lots of fun.

America Return Day. Monday, October 9, 2000. GOIN' HOME.


It's 4:57 AM and we are in the airport. We have gone through a huge, slow line to check in our four bags. But that's okay, that's why we come to airports early, for things like this. There is one last gift shop to check out, and we buy some T-shirts, prayer beads and a couple of other things. Then we pass through immigration.

Now we are at Gate 215, waiting for our 6 AM flight. And now it's 5:49 AM, and we're seated in Row 33 B and C. Waiting for A to come along.


Now it's 9:04 AM, Frankfurt time. We're in the airport and it's 10:04 AM in Turkey. We made our way through the Frankfort airport, picked up a free USA Today, international edition, and we're at the gate. Our plane will leave at 9:55 AM, and we'll probably board at 9:30 or so. That leaves twenty minutes for a nap. But I'm too excited to sleep.

In the Air.

The last leg. And now it's 10:07 and I have switched my clock to California time. It's 2 1/2 hours till we land in San Francisco. We have just crossed from Canada into Montana. We are south of Regina, Winnepeg, north of Great Falls and Fargo.

There is this little old lady on our flight. She is unhappy with EVERYTHING. She wanted to sit next to the bulkhead for more legroom, but didn't like the crying baby up there. Could they FIX THAT for her? Fix what? Which? Her? When it was time to eat, she wanted to see a menu so she could choose her meal. She wandered up and down the aisles looking for three empty seats in a row, so she could lie down and sleep. This after the attendants looked all over the plane for her. But the plane is almost full, and no such triple empty exists. Once I went to the four-door rest room area. Three were occupied and one was vacant, and our lady of the airplane was there, waiting. "That one's empty," I said to her, "and you were here first." "I want THAT one," she says, pointing to one of the occupied ones. "Cool," I thought as I changed the category of the empty one.

They show us two movies: "I Dreamed of Africa," and "Keeping the Faith." I work on my laptop, writing up a report and organizing the bird sitings through the second movie, but from Sharon's laughter, I should have watched it, I think. There is a German business traveler across the aisle from me who is working on his laptop, apparently entering business card information. Near the end of the trip, he asks me what kind of battery I am using because he has noticed that I have used it for a very long time. I tell him, and add that I have stuck a second battery into the port that usually has a CD reader, and that they are hot swappable (you don't have to power off the computer to change back and forth). He is impressed with my Mac. So am I. There is one disadvantage, however. The screen is so big, and the space between you and the seatback in front of you is so narrow, that when that person tilts his seat back, you have to fold the laptop screen forward, TOWARDS you, and it makes it pretty difficult to read. Not impossible though. Hah!

We get into SFO at about noon, as I recall, still on Monday. All our luggage has arrived safely, including the large duffel bag we had to borrow from Cihan to carry our rolled-up carpet in. We pass through customs, and our total purchases are at $690, or that's what I write down anyway. Anything under $800 for two people is no charge. We might have spent $750, but I know it was under $800.

We pass from customs into the real world, and our "limousine" driver is holding a piece of paper with our name on it. He rolls our big luggage through the airport, up the elevator and wedges it into the trunk of his car. Well just barely. It isn't a limousine at all, just a full sized Lincoln. With a big spare tire in the back, something he obviously tossed in recently. So the luggage just barely fits. It is $109, but the ride is so smooth, and being driven all the way home without having to wait or arrange anything is so nice, that I tip him $20.

Hey Tara, thanks for arranging this limo from our cell phone while we were driving up to the airport the day we left for Turkey. This is what a little planning can do. What a treat. You are La Bomba!

SEMI-FINAL REPORT: There is one more report to go out, and that will be an alphabetical list of the 98 [95 + 3 more I realized after reviewing trip notes and comparing species names with those of our life bird list] birds we saw, sorted by common last name, together with date and location in Turkey.


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