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Middle East Andrew Dispatch

Strange Encounters in Turkey
February 5, 2000


Greetings from Turkey! As this is my first dispatch for The Odyssey, I was asked to write something about how it feels to be a part of the world renowned Trek Team. Let me tell you, it is great. This Team rocks.

I met up with the Team a few days ago in Istanbul. We all had a bumpy time getting there. As for myself, currently I live in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans area of Eastern Europe. This is not so far from Turkey, but, bus delays and snowy weather nearly kept me in the Balkans. With good luck and a bit of stress, I left Sarajevo as scheduled and flew into Istanbul, fully prepared and excited to meet the Team. That evening I arrived at our contact point, The Orient Youth Hostel, full of anticipation and curiosity about the celebrities I was about to encounter.

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Welcome to Turkey!

I have been following The Odyssey for ten months, and even used it in my own classroom, when I was teaching in the States. As many of you do, I looked forward to the frequent dispatches as the Team slinked their way from place to place and kept us well informed of the happenings from many diverse parts of the world. I fretted as they tried to cross the Darien Gap; I marveled at their ingenuity in dealing with petty bureaucrats and opportunistic border guards; I was anxiety-ridden when three team members went missing in South America; I was dumbfounded by their dexterity in mounting the camels in Timbuktu; I gasped when they met the King of Swaziland; I thrilled as they ate cous-cous in Morocco. So, the prospect of actually meeting these stars in the flesh after having experienced along with them, in the way that many of you have, their adventures and experiences, was enough to make my belly-button pucker and unpucker with pure delight! I was not to be disappointed.


ingenuity - The quality of cleverness or skillfulness, being resourceful

bureaucrats - Officials who work fixed routines without using intelligent judgement

dexterity - Skill in using the hands or body

pensive – Engaged in intensive thought or deliberation

Besides the long time Team members, new Trekker Brian was also due to meet us that day. I arrived early and in high time to reserve us all a room, prepare a banquet, hire belly-dancers and decorate the room in a manner befitting a sultan. But no one came, the food went cold, the belly-dancers stopped gyrating, and the incense and candles all burned out. Soon I was reduced to watching Istanbul over countless glasses of tea in a small café (not really such a bad plight.). And I waited. Quite a long time. I began to think that the plans had changed, perhaps I was in the wrong place (oh NO Andrew, not Istanbul, we were supposed to meet in Cleveland!) or something like that. But no, Brian was delayed in Romania on his way here, and three of four of the Team were detained in Tel Aviv by security who claimed that they wanted to check all of their computer equipment. But I know the truth. The Israelis just did not want to let them go because they are so cute.

Monica somehow escaped the clutches of the security forces at the airport (not to suggest that Monica is not adorable in her own right) arrived in Istanbul, and made it to the hostel around midnight that evening. I was sitting pensively on the floor near the reception, when I heard a small voice from a small girl with a huge backpack ask of the receptionist if "Andrew or Brian" were there. The hostel man repeated, "Andrew O’Brien?", at which point I interjected in disbelief, "Monica?" (one such as myself is always a bit nervous when confronted by near royalty.)

Indeed it was, Ms. Monica Flores, in the flesh, exhausted and ready to sleep. So naturally I gushed over her and kept her awake until daylight, chattering about the prospect of being in Turkey, how great it was to be there, and wondering what had become of the other Trekkers.

Abeja, Kavitha, and Jasmine arrived unscathed the next morning. Their latest inconvenience had left them no less cheerful and perky than you would expect to find these women warriors. I offered to carry one of their packs up the stairs to the room until I realized that the packs weighed more than I do.. Jasmine picked it up like it was a rag doll and flung it over her shoulder. I was in awe.

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Kavitha is a real person!
So we five, though still curious about Trekker Brian, settled nicely into our communal room in the youth hostel, and began the process of getting to know each other. Of course, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. They looked so different, walking and talking. In my version of reality up to that point, these were people who existed on a web page and in written word. It took a few minutes for me to conceptualize that they were carbon-based life forms that were indeed three dimensional and real. They all made me feel comfortable and accepted by passing around my undershirt and inhaling my scent. I knew that these were very earthy women, and I suspect that they have, in the course of their travels, reverted to their more base, animal instincts and now regard scent as an important part of knowing a person. As they sensed no danger in my aroma, I could breathe easily.

Brian materialized the next morning after his own misadventures in getting to Istanbul from Sofia. So for the first time since Guatemala, the Team has six Trekkers. Life is good!

From the first moments I felt that we were good friends, and judging on how comfortable and familiar they were with one another, I knew that it was the beginning of yet another fantastic leg of this amazing journey.

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I can't believe I'm part of the Trek Team
I feel very fortunate to have been selected from so many qualified and hopeful applicants to participate in this adventure, and I hope that you enjoy what I have to say in my dispatches. Please feel free to write to me anytime and I will do my best to answer you as well and soon as I can. To find out more about me, check out my profile. Be sure to check in often for what is sure to be an informative and fun experience in the Middle East!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - Istanbul (Not Constantinople): They Might Be in Turkey!
Brian - Oh the places we'll go!
Jasmine - Odyssey Behind The Scenes: Secrets Revealed!
Kavitha - Interview With Courage
Kavitha - Kavi Gets MAD With Art
Kevin - Life, The Greatest Trek of All!

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