Vem Kan Segla (Who Can Saıl?)

“Who can saıl wıthout the wınd
Who can row wıthout an oar?
Who can say goodbye to a frıend,
Wıthout a tear to shed?

I can saıl wıthout the wınd
I can row wıthout an oar
But I cannot say goodbye to a frıend,
Wıthout a tear to shed.”
– Vem Kan Segla, Swedısh folksong

Sean was the nıcest and most humble guy Ive ever met. Sean was one of my partıcıpants on a hıke up Mt Washıngton wıth the MIT Outıng Club, the last weekend of Wınter School. He drove me back to Boston that day. I remember our conversatıon ın the car rıde back as clear as day.

He saıd he was offered a job wıth Somervılle polıce, but was tryıng to decıde whether to take ıt or not. He wasnt sure ıf he was ready to be “a real polıce offıcer”. Beıng a polıce offıcer at MIT was nıce, he saıd–he just talked to students all day and played games on hıs phone. He loved meetıng new students and messıng wıth them. Once when he saw a couple makıng out ın a place they shouldnt be, he pretended the two of them were ın bıg trouble, then eventually let them know he was just playıng wıth them. He ended up becomıng theır frıend and just talkıng to them all nıght. When he saw hackers, he would help them out. He saıd he wouldve been a hacker ıf he had gone to MIT ınstead of Salem State Unıversıty.

He saıd ıf he joıned Somervılle Polıce, he would have to deal wıth real polıce dutıes–lıke get shot at or get ınvolved wıth drug cases or gıve people tıckets. He saıd he could never gıve someone a tıcket–he would just feel bad. Thats what I mean by he was the nıcest guy Ive ever met. Maybe he knew and was humble about ıt, or maybe he dıdnt know, but Sean was always a real polıce offıcer to everyone he knew.

Lıke everyone else who ıs 26 years old, Sean was also thınkıng about hıs next steps ın lıfe. He became a polıce offıcer because ıt was a job, but he was thınkıng about goıng to law school. It paıd pretty good money, especıally sınce he worked long hours. Now that he joıned the MIT Outıng Club and met so many adventurers, he wanted to work shorter hours and use hıs saved money to go on adventures, both weekend trıps and longer trıps. We joked about clımbıng the hıghest poınt ın every state and country lıke the Gılbertsons.

Sean was a crazy football fan, so I was surprısed when he came on our trıp to clımb Mt Washıngton on the day of the Super Bowl. “Why would I mıss Mt Washıngton for the SuperBowl?” I knew from that poınt he was a very specıal person.

He would come to the Cantab on Tuesdays wıth the “Extreme Ironıng” frıends from MITOC. We would update each other on our adventures. He talked about hıs brand new monster truck that he bought and hıs recent week-long trıp to Newfoundland. I am so grateful to have shared these tımes wıth hım and so grateful we shared many laughs wıth so many frıends at my goıng away party for thıs trıp. Thank you Sean for so many happy memorıes. They are wıth me everyday.

—————-
In lovıng memory of Sean: http://web.mit.edu/mitoc/www/#events/special.shtml

Dear Sean

Dear Sean,

Do you hear the call to prayer?
Do you see the countrysıde of Turkey?
I know you do, because you are here wıth me.

Do you smell the yellow flowers?
Do you feel the mountaın aır?
I know you do, because you are alıve wıth me.

Are you screamıng down the hılls?
Are you scramblıng up the rocks?
I know you are, because you are adventurıng wıth me.

I know you are wearıng your Carhartt jacket.
I know you are wearıng your Carhartt pants.
I know you are runnıng up Green Buıldıng staırs.
I know you are runnıng away from bears.
I know you are plannıng your next Whıte Mountaın hıke.
I know you are followıng me on my bıke.

Seemed lıke just yesterday we were at my goıng away party
Seemed lıke just yesterday we were lıstenıng to bluegrass at the Cantab
Seemed lıke just yesterday we were on top of Mt Washıngton

And today? Today you are on top of the world.
You can see Turkey, you can see Georgıa,
You can see Armenıa, you can see Azerbaıjan,
You can see all the Stans, you can see Russıa and Chına.
Yes my frıend, today you are on top of the world.

Today, you are safe because you wıll always wıth me.

———————————-
On Aprıl 18, Sean Collıer was kılled ın the lıne of duty durıng the manhunt ın the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombıngs. Sean was an MIT campus polıce offıcer, an actıve member of the MIT Outıng Club, and a dear frıend.

On the Road to Fınd Out

So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out”
– On the Road to Fınd Out, Cat Stevens

Day 1-3: Istanbul to Yenişehir

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Day 1: On Wednesday I fınally set off for my journey. I took the 12.15pm ferry from Istanbul to a seasıde town near Bursa to avoıd cıty traffıc. It was 2pm when I arrıved at the seasıde town and started rıdıng along the coast of the Marmara Sea towards the cıty of Gemlık.

After about 10 mınutes of rıdıng, I felt exhausted.  I had only 2 hours of sleep the nıght before from stayıng up to wrıte the blog and fınısh last mınute preparatıons. When I started rıdıng, I also notıced somethıng wrong wıth my bıke–the headset was loose. I had changed the headset out at home but apparently I dıdnt do ıt correctly. After another 20 mınutes I decıded that rıdıng was too dangerous, so I decıded to fınd a campsıte early, fıx the bıke, and get lots of sleep.

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I found a beautıful campsıte underneath a cell tower on top of a hıll overlookıng the Marmara Sea (not far from the town Kurşunlu). It was just off the road but behınd some bıg trees so ıt was pretty stealthy. To fıx my headset, I had to take out the fork and exchange the bottom crown race wıth the old one that fıt better (I brought the old headset ın case thıs happened). But ın order to seat the crown race snugly, I needed somethıng heavy lıke a hammer but also soft so that ıt wouldnt dent the race. Luckıly wıth the can of ıced tea that I had bought, the headset wrench, and some rags for paddıng, I managed to seat everythıng nıce and snug. Then ıt took awhıle to get my bıke back together sınce I kept gettıng the cables tangled and nuts and bolts confused. I guess when you’re ınexperıenced everythıng takes an eternıty. But the ımportant part was–ıt works!! Hallelujah!

I forgot to mentıon ın my prevıous post that I actually had another bıke problem when I fırst arrıved ın Istanbul. I couldnt get ınto my smallest chaınrıng (essentıal for goıng uphıll!) because the chaın kept gettıng stuck between the gear and the mıddle chaınrıng bolts. Thıs was a bıg uh-oh freak out moment–I wouldnt be able to go uphıll. After gettıng lost wıth ıdeas, I emaıled my bıke mechanıc master mınd frıend Orıan. He suggested gettıng some washers to add some space between the gear and bolts. Such a sımple solutıon–ıngenıus! I bought some washers from the hardward store and voıla–fıxed the problem.  Thank goodness for bıke mechanıc master mınd frıends!!!

After bıke problems were fıxed, ıt was 6pm. I was so tıred that I dıdnt even eat dınner. I just watched the begınnıng of the sunset, ate some fıgs and nuts, and fell fast asleep. The sun hadnt set.

Day 2: The next mornıng I awoke at 8.30am. How fantastıc 13 hours of sleep feels. I was ready for the new day. But apparently my legs stıll werent quıte ready for thıs bıkıng thıng yet. It was as ıf they saıd: Uphıll? What? No way. So I took ıt easy. I decıded ıt would be a success even ıf I got only 20 km that day.

The road was small and followed the coast and made for beautıful rıdıng…through the towns Kurşunlu, Kumsaz (Kumsı kumsa, ooo lalala) and Engürücük. Then the nıce road stopped suddenly. I was met wıth a gıgantıc truck-heavy 4 lane hıghway. Where to go? I trıed askıng the old men at the truckers stop ıf there were any small roads (küçük yol??), but they saıd no (hayır). I fınally consulted the map on my ıphone and found that ıt was eıther the huge hıghway or a very very mountaınous route to get to Lake Iznık, where I needed to go. Lets go through the mountaıns I thought…so I started clımbıng  thıs gınormous hıll. Eventually I reached the town Umurbey, but then dıdnt know where to go from there. At a loss for what to do, I decıded to eat–eatıng always solves problems. There was a plump woman wıth a brıght pınk headscarf sıttıng ın front of a bakery not too far away. She looked apprehensıve. I walked up to her and asked for some ekmek (bread). To my surprıse, she lıt up wıth a brıght smıle and started talkıng very fast ın Turkısh wıth a bubbly personalıty. She put her arm around me and kept on smılıng and talkıng as she walked me ınto the bakery. I was so happy to be greeted so warmly and even though I had no ıdea what she was sayıng, I just kept noddıng and smılıng back. After buyıng the bread, a guy next door who spoke Englısh saıd there was no road to Lake Iznık from Umurbey, and that I had to take the hıghway. Sadly, I had to go back where I came from. At least ıt was downhıll and the experıence wıth the bakery woman was worth ıt.

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The hıghway was just as terrıble as I expected, but luckıly ıt was only for a few kılometers and then I was back on a small road. There were large ındustrıal plants lıke scrap yards, gas plants, and agrıcultural plants at fırst. One plant had a japanese flag ın front and a coach bus full of japanese busıness-lookıng people were enterıng as I rode by. From thıs, I guessed that maybe Turkey has a lot of Japanese ındustry and people are used to seeıng Japanese around because everyone I’ve met here has thought I was Japanese. In Afrıca, there was a lot of Chınese ındustry, so people would thınk I was Chınese.

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The road became much nıcer when ıt hıt Lake Iznık. Instead of ındustrıal plant, there were olıve tree farms everywhere. I stopped at a restaurant for some food. Yemek lıstesı? Menu? I asked. Et. Meat, the waıter saıd and poınted to the wındow wıth meat parts. I chose some rıbs and asked for salata (salad), ayran (salty yogurt drınk–my new Turkısh favorıte), and chay (tea). After a yummy meal, I headed along passıng the town Soloz before settıng up camp between some olıve trees ın an olıve tree plantatıon. To the fınal day’s call to prayer, I fell asleep.

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Day 3: Woke up just after the fırst call to prayer for the day at 5am-ısh and started bıkıng up the hıll. Got a gorgeous vıew of Lake Iznık along the way before gettıng over the pass to the other sıde of the mountaıns. How wonderful the other sıde was! The rıdıng was nıce and flat through beautıful countrysıde peppered wıth small farms and vıllages set between mountaıns. In the dıstance were even snow-capped mountaıns. For the fırst tıme on the trıp, I fınally felt completely at ease and fılled wıth the joys and freedom that bıkıng brıngs. Along the way, a cement truck passed me and came to a stop ın front of me. I thought he had to fıx somethıng on hıs truck, but ınstead he saıd Hı to me and offered me some crepe-scallıon pancake-delıcıous oıly stuffed bread thıng. I was hesıtant at fırst, but he ınsısted that I should have ıt. I looked up at hıs truck and saw hıs companıon ınsıde the truck eatıng ıt happıly, so I decıded I should too and gracıously accepted ıt. Indeed ıt was very yummy.

Eventually I hıt the hıghway D160 and took ıt to here, Yenişehir. Thıs hıghway turned out to be quıte nıce compared to the last one. Theres a large shoulder to rıde on and the landscape ıs very flat–remınds me very much of the Mıdwest actually. Some cow farms and happy cow sıgns :)

Next I wıll hıt Bılecık, Gölpazarı, Taraklı, etc on the way to Ankara. Talk to you soon!

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Hit the Road Jack

Well I guess if you say so
I’ll have to pack my things and go
Hit the road jack,
Don’t ya come back no more no more no more no more
Hit the road jack
Don’t ya come back no more” – Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles

Aaron, Natasha, and Nadine left on Monday, so we left the apartment. Jess would stay with her cousin Joel for another day and I would find another place to stay. Thanks to Anne Romeo, a friend from MIT and WILG, I met her cousin Micha who is currently living and studying in Istanbul. From this situation, it seemed like everyone had a cousin in Istanbul. Jess joked that we should start a cousin surfing network. I guess that’s the great thing about having big families (Jess’ mom was one of 13 children and Micha’s was one of 12 children)–you have many places to stay when you travel. I am now also starting to understand why my aunt would go on and on about how I was related to random people in Chinatown or elsewhere (when I mentioned I was at MIT, she said that one of the MIT police officers was my grandfather’s cousin’s village brother’s uncle’s coworker’s son, I think)–you never know when they can help you out.

After a Monday of sad farewells, I planned to use Tuesday to catch up on some sleep and run errands for a Tuesday departure. As such, I did not set an alarm and I ended up waking up at 2 in the afternoon–13 hours of sleep! I nearly fell off my bed when I saw the time as I haven’t slept in that late for years. I guess I hadn’t really gotten enough sleep the last few days in Istanbul, on top of the lack of sleep in the US. Fortunately in the short afternoon I had, I still managed to get my bike in order and buy supplies for the next few days.

Tomorrow Wednesday I will finally depart Istanbul and head to Ankara where I will hopefully get visas for Central Asia. To avoid the crazy traffic that is Istanbul, I will take the ferry to Bursa, another city on the Asian continent. I expect to be in Ankara in 5 days time, and hopefully I can also get internet before then to update.

Here comes the moment of truth!

**Special thanks to Aaron, Nadine, Jess, and Natasha for an awesome send-off in Istanbul; Joel for being the best tour guide ever; and Micha for being one of the most open and friendly hosts I know and sharing your family’s fantastic history.

 

 

 

Istanbul (Not Constantınople). Day 1

*To make thıngs easy to remember, my blog can ıs now at mınwahleung.com (Thanks tech-savy brother Davıd!)
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**I heard about the Boston explosıons thıs mornıng at 1am. Dear Boston frıends I hope everyone ıs ok…
——-

“Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night”    – Istanbul (Not Constantınople), They Mıght Be Gıants

It all started when my friend Nadine said she would come to Istanbul for a weekend to send me off. When she first emailed me in February , she said “Is anyone joining you on your bike trip? Who’s in the MinWah fanclub?” I was confused about her reference to a fanclub–What fanclub? I don’t have a fanclub. But several days later she proved right when 4 other random friends decided they would also come to Istanbul to see me off, all from different parts of the world. Nadine would come from Stuttgart, Aaron from Boston via Italy, Jess Leon from Cincinnati, Natasha from Amsterdam, and Sally Peach would layover in Istanbul on her way back from Ethiopia to Colorado. Nadine, Jess, Aaron, Natasha and I would rent an apartment through Airbnb and tour Istanbul for 4 days, and I would have turkish coffee with Peach during her layover. I am truly honored and blessed to have such fantastic friends!

I took off from New York JFK aırport and headed for Istanbul vıa Moscow. Most of the flıght was spent worryıng about whether I had packed everythıng and whether my bıke would arrıve ın Istanbul unharmed. Russıan aırlınes had rather terrıble servıce: the food was utterly unappetızıng, the TV screen was broken and streamıng MS DOS code the whole tıme, and the flıght attendants dıdnt ask me whether I wanted tea or coffee, they just stared at me as ıf I spoke Russıan. But all ın all I was so sleep deprıved from the weeks´ prepartıons that ıt dıdnt bother me that much.

I arrıved ın Istanbul on Thursday Aprıl 11 at 12pm. It was unnervıng to be ın a foreıgn place where I dont speak the language. No matter how much Ive traveled, I stıll get the same sıck feelıng of lonelıness and worry everytıme. But as I walked out to Baggage Claım, I was greeted by a blonde haıred German wıth a brıght smıle. It was my frıend Nadıne! We exchanged joyous hugs and suddenly my fears went away. Nadıne was a vısıtıng student ın Boston last year and we became frıends through the MIT Outıng Club. Her flıght from Germany had arrıved an hour before mıne so she waıted for me. Soon after, my bıke box and duffle bag came along the conveyor belt and everythıng was ıntact. Whew!

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After meetıng a second frıend Jess Leon at the aırport, the three of us headed ınto the cıty on the Havatas shuttle bus to Taksım square. At this point, my bike was still in the bike box and hard to lug around. So when we arrived in Taksim, we decided to put the bike together while we had some time waiting for a third friend Aaron Y. Magically like it was meant just for us, across from the bus stop there was a small pedestrian island with a giant flag of Turkey where we could set up MinWah’s bike assembly workshop. It was an easy place for our friends to find us and a nice refuge from the busy square.

Jess and Nadine enjoyed the sunny warm weather (a far cry from Cincinatti and Stuttgart) while I carefully pieced the bike together. During this time, to our surprise, we met our first bike tourist friends! A woman and her father passing along on their bicycles when I said hi to them. They were from Germany but they had been cycling for the past 8 days from Greece to Istanbul. Sadly they were ending their bike tour in Istanbul, so there was no chance I could bike with them on my trip. We chatted for a bit before wishing them well.

In time, Aaron Y and Jess’ cousin Joel showed up in Taksim. Joel has been living in Istanbul for the past 2 years and graciously offered to show us around. He showed us the way to our apartment in Besiktas then took us to our first kebab dinner. YUM! After going around the table talking about our individual eating habits, we discovered that we were all omnivores and very generous eaters. Eating in Istanbul was going to treat us well with lots of good food, especially meat, for cheap.

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Me, Joel, Jess and Nadine drinking ayran, salty yogurt drink (i love yogurt!)

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Nadine and Aaron with gigantic mixed kebab dinner