Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Today began with overcast skies that quickly turned into a light drizzle, that soon turned into a steady rain as the morning progressed. We toured a different part of the city and were able to meet more of the wonderful people that make Turkey such as fun place to visit. The people we encountered along the way were as gracious as always and we were able to give out 17-18 gifts during the morning. After lunch at the largest mall in Europe and better weather, we did a bit of sightseeing. You will see a few of the places we visited below. We even gave away another couple of gifts during our time in the mall and seeing the great historical sites of Instanbul.

After sightseeing for a few hours, we had time to buy a few collectable Turkish carpets from a fine man named Mustafa. He spent quite a bit of time showing us and telling us about dozens upon dozens of authentic Turkish carpets and killams. If you ever make the trip to central Asia, find Mustafa, you'll be glad you did. Even if you don't buy one thing from him, you'll treasure meeting and getting to know one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. After a bus and a subway ride back to our hotel, we had a 5-star dining experience courtesy of Chuck's herculean efforts to meet some fellow UPS bretheren here in Turkey. The experience was more than we (including Chuck) expected and one that we will not soon forget. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. We will have one more day in this magnificent city before we make the long journey home. Until tomorrow......

This picture is actually from the day before. I snapped this picture after we spent 15-20 minutes in this pleasant gentlemen's clothing shop. Leigh bought a houndstooth shirt (remember she is a UA graduate) and he gave her a necklace as a gift. We were able to share one of our gifts with him. He was so gracious and kind as are most of the Turks we encountered as we toured the city.

This picture was taken this morning as we gathered in the largest mall in Europe. We had spent the morning touring the city, giving out gifts, and dodging rain drops. It was the only bad weather we experienced during our entire time in central Asia. Greg, Leigh, and Chuck were able to stay dry with their colorful ponchos, although as I saw them I thought that somewhere there was a giant box of 64 Crayola crayons that was missing three colors. After a good lunch and a short rest in this mall, the rain stopped and we continued our tour of the city.

This is a view of the Blue Mosque, the most visited mosque in the city. It was built by Sultan Ahmed in the early 17th century (construction began in 1609) to compete with the Hagia Sophia which is nearby. It is called the Blue Mosque because of the more than 20,000 handcrafted blue ceramic tiles that adorn the interior of this mosque.

Here we are in front of the Hagia Sophia. It was built under the orders of Emperor Justinian between 532-537 AD. It was the world's largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years until Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman Turks and ordered to be converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmed in 1453. It remained a mosque until by order of Mustafa Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, it was turned into a museum in 1935.

Here Chuck is basking in the sweet glow of knowing he just became "the man." Through his UPS connections we were able to dine with the Director of UPS operations over all of Turkey. We dined at one of the finest Turkish restaurants in all of Istanbul. Our host, a man of obvious wealth, postion, and power, was inviting and a delight to get to know. Afterwards, we jokingly said that our host had enough money and power that at Chuck's request he could (with a snap of his fingers) have one us killed. Thankfully, Chuck spared our lives. I couldn't help but think that despite being mere moments away from death, I still have the joy of knowing the One who gives me life eternally. So, truth be told, I have a wealth and a power that cannot be measured by earthly standards.

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