Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Friends

In between our volunteer gigs, we've done some sightseeing, exploring and meeting new friends. After leaving Hungary, we went to Turkey for about 10 days. We explored the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya in Instanbul, had a failed attempted walk to Asia (only to realize you can only drive over that bridge), took in some sand and surf at the insland of Bozcaada, explored the ruins in Bergama, explored more ruins at Ephesus and amazing calcium walls and thermal pools at Pamukkale and then bussed it back up to Istanbul. Along the way, we met many incredible people. There was Hilmi, the friendly and intelligent man at the bus stop in Bergama. We chatted about politics, books and the cultural differences and similarities as we waited for our bus to Izmir. Then we had the hilarious Italian duo of Stefano and Fabrizio. The four of us toured ruins, hit the beach, crashed a Turkish wedding with Mustafa the gracious hostel owner (where we drank apple tea and played backgammon- it was a mellow wedding), all while chatting about music, relationships, travel and cracking each other up. In Selcuk, me met a bevvy of friendly folks including Dave- the serious but funny Aussie, Oli- the savvy young traveling Brit, Nuri- the sweet and very funny gal from Korea, and Jessica- the bold solo traveler from Canada.

On our last night in Turkey, we had the great fortune of meeting Maurizio and Paola, our instant friends from Travino, Italy. They shared their dessert with us and the rest was history. You'd be hard-pressed to find a kinder, funnier, more perfectly matched duo.

From Istanbul we flew to Bangkok with a layover in Dubai. Azam, our flight attendent on the way to Dubai, became a new friend too. That guy was hilarious. And then we arrived in Chaig Mai, Thailand, where we were met by Nong. This gal tops the new friend charts. Seth, the team leader from the Habitat trip, hooked us up with his wife Nong, who lives in Thailand. She was the best tour guide imaginable. Nong drove us into the mountains to visit a Hmong village, showed us the Queen's Palace, and took us to amazing Temples all over Chaing Mai. Nong taught us a lot about Thai culture and Buddhism. And then there was the food. We ate incredible Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, crispy fish, green curry, red curry, and delicious fruits of every variety. The highlight was going to Nong's family's house. Her parents and sister Mai were all just as kind and welcoming. The food was amazing but the hospitality was what I'll cherish the most. Nong is gearing up for a move to America soon. I hope her family comes to visit the U.S. so we can attempt to offer them the same hospitality that they showed us.

Now we're in Khao Lak, Thailand. We begin our two weeks of volunteering with the Tsunami Volunteer Center tomorrow morning. I'm excited to be put to work and make some more new friends.

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