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Flashback to Istanbul, Turkey (Post #139)

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

At the time of the following story, Michele and i didn’t want to report it publicly because we didn’t want anyone to get overly concerned about my health considering the incident with my irregular heart beat (by the way, i haven’t had an irrgular beat since). anyway…

I went to the hospital in Istanbul (at the end of our tour of Turkey) because, regardless of the heart problems i encountered in Kas, i had been in generally poor health in Turkey and took a definite turn for the worse in Istanbul. Essentially, i just had a fever of about 103 and felt very bad and had diarrhea. We thought it would be a good idea to see a doctor and the hospital just happened to be the best option if for no other reason than we had heard the rumor that the English would be good there.

anyway, on to the examination in the hospital…

i was in a standard hospital room designed to contain maybe 6 patients all separated by curtains. After the doctor asked me what was going on with me (he actually spoke very good English and was very good at interviewing), he did some routine-type examinations. one of these involved feeling my abdomen and determining whether i had any pain in that area. of course, we have all had this exact same examination in the Dr’s office. in order to do this properly, he asked me to unbutton my pants and then he pulled them down maybe an inch or so. ok. fine. also perfectly normal. he finished, stepped back and said, “ok, you can take your clothes off now.” wow! this was really going to be a thorough examination. Michele later reported thinking this exact same thing.

so, i felt just a tiny bit uncomfortable removing all of my clothes (just as most people would) but i did it — every last stitch of clothing. after laying there on the hospital bed completely naked for a few minutes, a male nurse came in. He walked over to my right arm, took my blood pressure and then walked out. hmmmmm… i needed to have all of my clothes off in order for them to take my blood pressure??

a few minutes later, the Dr. came back in and said, “ok, you can take your clothes ON now.” he continued by saying, “i think you misunderstood me. i told you you could take your clothes on, not put them off.” ????

Michele and i both clearly heard “off” not “on” and it wouldn’t have made any sense to us for the Dr. to have said ON anyway because to us, my clothes weren’t off while he was feeling my abdomen.

what could this poor nurse have thought??? he walked into this room expecting a routine blood pressure check and instead his eyes were assaulted by the sight of some crazy, completely naked American. i’m sure he was traumatized!!

anyway, this story has provided both Michele and i with many, many laughs since. we hope everyone else also enjoys it.

a tangent — subsequent discussions have examined the flaws of the English language. it doesn’t really make any sense that we say “take clothes off” and “put clothes on”. the verbs should clearly be swapped such that a person takes their clothes on and puts them off. this, was the logic the Dr. used which may have added to the confusion. regardless, the Dr. in this particular story definitely said OFF and, in theory, the preposition should be the key word in this instance.

Re-Entry to the U.S. (Post#138)

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

We write…

On June 15th we set 3 alarms for 3:00am in order to be sure to get up in time to catch our pre-arranged taxi that was scheduled to pick us up at 4:00am. Our hostal owner, who spoke no English, told us (in Spanish) that he would make the arrangements for a taxi pick up. We were both a bit nervous about this and had “Plan B” in case there was no taxi at 4:00. “Plan B” was simply to go out on the main street and flag down a cab. This was not an option we wanted to take since the neighborhood we were staying in has a reputation for being dangerous at night.

We were very thankful to find the cab outside our hostal at 4:00a. We got to the airport with no problem and the 5 hour flight from Quito, Ecuador to Houston, Texas (USA) was uneventful. At about 12:00 noon we entered the United States.

We had been out of the United States for over year and had visited 29 countries. We doubted we would just walk through customs like all the other people – and we were right. On the U.S. immigration card one of the questions asked what country we had been to before coming to the U.S. We both wrote “Ecuador + 28 others”. We got in line with several hundred other people and commented to each other that we had never seen so many people at a border crossing.

At passport control we explained to the officer that we had been out of the country for over a year and I showed him a list of the countries we had visited. These included:

Netherlands (Holland)
Czech Republic
New Zealand

He immediately wrote a code on the top of our immigration cards and sent us on our way. When we got to customs, we noticed most people just walked on through. When we got to the customs officers they sent us to a special customs room. Once we were in the customs room we saw the majority of people following green arrows and their luggage was being x-rayed by a machine. We were told to follow the red arrows where our bags would be inspected by hand.

Neither one of us wanted to unpack our bag – not because we had anything to hide, but because it took us so long to find the perfect spot for each item so that everything would fit. Plus, we had carefully wrapped many of our souvenirs in articles of clothing and strategically placed them in just the right place so that they wouldn’t get damaged. Michele also bought some artwork that had been professionally packaged and unwrapping (then rewrapping) that would be a nightmare.

We went to two different officers. Michele’s customs agent asked her which countries she had been to, whether she was carrying food, flowers, or plants, and which countries were her favorites. He also asked her to describe the artwork that she was hand carrying. After answering these questions she was told to exit the room. Meanwhile….

Mike’s customs officer took every single item out of his pack and put it on a table to examine. Mike had some souvenirs wrapped up and the officer even unwrapped the individual souvenirs to take a closer look at them. Mike was also asked a lot of questions. The officer explained that there had been a recent increase in drugs smuggled from Ecuador and that’s why he wanted to go through Mike’s bag so thoroughly. The officer was pleasant enough and after 30 minutes of digging through Mike’s stuff, he let Mike repack his bag. During this time Michele waited outside the special customs room and asked people exiting whether or not Mike (tall guy with long beard) was still talking with an agent. One couple told Michele, “It’s going to be a while. He’s got the entire contents of his pack spread out all over a table.” About 45 minutes after Michele exited, Mike walked through the door.

We had booked our own flights back into the U.S. and purposefully scheduled a 3 hour layover just in case we had trouble getting through customs. We’re so smart!

So, after 374 days, 29 countries and tens of thousands of dollars (look for a complete spending analysis in the near future) we’re happy to report we are alive and well (but a bit tired). What a trip!

As a comparison, here we are before and after our around-the-world trip:

BEFORE leaving on our trip (June 5, 2005):


AFTER our trip (June 15, 2006):


We are now in San Francisco, California visiting friends. Tomorrow we will go to the Portland, Oregon area to visit Michele’s family before returning to our “home” (storage unit and P.O. box) on the East Coast…

365 days on the road (Post #128.5)

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006
We are back in Guayaquil, Ecuador after our Galapagos trip and are leaving for Riobamba tomorrow morning. We have officially been travelling for over one year now! Just nine days left before re-entry to the U.S.! Mike writes... I am looking forward ... [Continue reading this entry]

Update: maps (originally post #71)

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
After being behind on the mapping for the past couple of weeks, we´re now all caught up to the 15th of April.  Mike

Our Reading List (ongoing post)

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
Mike writes... Certainly we spend a lot of our "free" time on trains, planes, busses and boats reading our guidebooks for the upcoming destinations but we have been doing some recreational reading as well -- i more than Michele (mostly because ... [Continue reading this entry]