Our first day in New Zealand

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The last few days have been a blur. Jim and I flew out of Dallas on December 1 and, through a series of connections, ended up in Brisbane, Australia where we had a nine-hour layover. Luckily one of our dear friends, Mandie, lives there and was able to pick us up at the airport and show us around.

Brisbane was a lot cooler than I expected. Apparently their summer has been very rainy, which was pleasant for us. I much prefer 75 degrees to 90 degrees. In less than nine-hours we managed to see most of Brisband, eat lunch, mail off postcards and check out some thrift stores or “op-shops” as they call them.

It was so lovely to spend the day with Mandie whom we have not seen in two-years.

After a grand day in Australia we were ready for our final flight to Auckland! Our plane was delayed over an hour, but, luckily, our friends Kristen and Nick were not deterred and waited for us at the airport. By the time we made it back to their house it was 3AM!

Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. The two cities that we flew into half way across the globe are where we have dear friends with whom to spend time. Kristen and Nick have a beautiful house in Auckland where we are going to at least spend the next week. We are supposed to make it to Wellington to meet up with our friends at some point but life has already proven so easy here I wouldn’t be surprised if we get sucked in for a couple of weeks.

Today was our first full day in New Zealand and it was amazing! I managed to wake up around 9AM and didn’t feel too jet lagged. I tagged along with Kristen and Nick to a dance class, which has lines of three and the instructor demonstrates the moves and people follow him down the studio. Most of the participants are obviously experienced dancers and some of the moves were difficult to do, but what a great start to my time in New Zealand! I got a good work out and met some interesting people.

Later today six of us piled into a car and drove to Bethells Beach where we explored caves and hills. The countryside of New Zealand is breathtaking. When we first arrived at the beach it was drizzling rain and a fine mist was wafting off the ocean and over the sand. It reminded me a lot of San Francsico.

We found one cave that you could walk all the way through and it led to a secluded beach. When leaving the secluded beach to walk back through the cave we got caught in the tide change and it made for an adventurous exit!

I have been in New Zealand less than 24-hours but I love it already. There is so much to do and natural beauty to behold. I can’t wait to write more about our adventures of hiking, swimming and exploring.

Dubai Airport, 24-hour shopping mall

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When I found out that my first layover on the way to Bali was in Dubai I was really excited because I have heard so many good things about it. Then I realized that my flight was landing at 12:40AM. Usually not an auspicious time to find open stores.

Well, I have been thoroughly surprised by the Dubai Airport. Apparently, everything is open all the time. As the women at the duty free store told me, “We never close.” Crazy!

Arriving at the Dubai airport is the equivalent of flying into a high end shopping mall. There are Clinique counters, Armani and Hermes boutiques, and cigar shops.

I contemplated going through customs just to say that I made it out of the airport in the UAE, but that seemed to hard. So here I am. Hanging out at Starbucks waiting for my flight.

After this I fly to Kuala Lampur where I have an hour layover and then on to Denpasar, the capital of Bali. My flight left Istanbul at 19:25 on Saturday and I arrive at 18:30 in Indonesia on Sunday. Wow, a whole day lost flying! I think it will be worth it though.

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Dubai Airport, 24-hour shopping mall

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When I found out that my first layover on the way to Bali was in Dubai I was really excited because I have heard so many good things about it. Then I realized that my flight was landing at 12:40AM. Usually not an auspicious time to find open stores.

Well, I have been thoroughly surprised by the Dubai Airport. Apparently, everything is open all the time. As the women at the duty free store told me, “We never close.” Crazy!

Arriving at the Dubai airport is the equivalent of flying into a high end shopping mall. There are Clinique counters, Armani and Hermes boutiques, and cigar shops.

I contemplated going through customs just to say that I made it out of the airport in the UAE, but that seemed to hard. So here I am. Hanging out at Starbucks waiting for my flight.

After this I fly to Kuala Lampur where I have an hour layover and then on to Denpasar, the capital of Bali. My flight left Istanbul at 19:25 on Saturday and I arrive at 18:30 in Indonesia on Sunday. Wow, a whole day lost flying! I think it will be worth it though.

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Last few hours in Istanbul

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Today is my last day in Istanbul. I will jump on the 16:30 Havas (shuttle) to the airport and will be taking off around 19:30 on my way to parts unknown.

I didn’t realize how much I had bonded with our little neighborhood here in Cianghir until I was walking around running errands yesterday and it hit me that it was the last time that I would be doing so. All of a sudden the shops looked cuter, the colors seemed brighter and the permanent pedestrian traffic jam on Istiklal even seemed quaint.

I walked into the local corner store last night and a man who works there actually greeted me with handshake. We have seen each other almost every single day for the last month either when I come into the store or when I am just walking by on my way home. I have no idea what his name is and neither of us speak the other’s language. But he is always friendly and tries to be helpful when I am looking for things.

This was the first time that he has shaken my hand, which is a customary form of courtesy here in Turkey. I have finally broken through a cultural barrier, a tiny step toward cultural acceptance and understanding. I was excited for a second and then really sad when I realized that I am leaving today and will never see this man again. I have these visions of the seasons changing and him looking out the window hopefully, waiting for me to return and ask where the eggs are, but I never do.

I am glad that I am leaving Istanbul on a high note. The weather is beautiful, the outdoor cafes are packed and the tourists are flooding in. There are a few things that I wasn’t able to see while I was here like the Topkapi Palace and Chora Church. But it’s also nice to have a reason to come back. Istanbul is definitely a city that I want to come back to.

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How to eat an Egyptian pigeon

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Our CouchSurfing host, Eslam, took us to an non-touristy restaurant in Cairo where he introduced us to a local delicacy: pigeon. Apparently Egypt is one of the few countries where they actually eat pigeon, which accounts for why we saw very few of them on our trip.

According to Eslam, when Egyptians travel abroad they seek out opportunities to take photos of themselves in squares with lots of pigeons. This is impossible to do in Egypt because the birds are just plain scared.

Greetings from Egypt!

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Erin’s gift bags

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Our kitchen manager, Erin, is amazing! Tonight is our last night living in our collective apartment together in Istanbul. Erin realizes that none of us have really had to shop here nor do we know how to cook.

She tried to mitigate the pain of being ripped from the womb with gift bags. So sweet!

The Great Istanbul Scavenger Hunt

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Our roommate, Erin, created this amazing scavenger hunt that spanned all three sections of Istanbul: Europe, Golden Horn and Asia (that’s right, we can take a ferry to Asia).

It was an intense game that included gathering clues from different areas and also different people who we had to find. We broke up into three teams and ran around the city doing silly things like trying on Turkcell hats and Fenerbache clothing.

While putting this video together I had a lot of technical difficulties (iMovie hates me). I am looking forward to making more little videos and hopefully they will turn out a little better.

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New adventures in Istanbul

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My friends and I went out on the town (and by town, I mean Taksim) and on our way back decided to sample what the street vendors had to offer.

Food Exploration in Istanbul

Teaser time lapse

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My friend, Meredith, and I woke up at sunrise to watch dozens of hot air balloons take off in the valley of Goreme. It was totally worth it to see these immense balloons get filled up with hot air and backed full of people as they transcended through space.

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