Sunday, January 8, 2017

My Journey to the center of the earth !!!

Well exactly speaking I would say the title is little misleading as I didn't drill down in to the earth lava core as you could have see n in the Hollowood movie with the same title. Rather "My journey to the near center of the map" would be the opt title. But I decided to keep it fancy as it was popular and well known title.

So where did I actually go? This is about my  business trip to a city called Malatya in Turkey which is almost at the center of the world map from 5th to 9th December 2016. So I am just going to share some of the challenges I faced in the Turkish city.

The request came just couple of days before the planned start date and hence I had a very short time to plan the trip. I managed to purchase a set of thermals to fight the cold weather. My travel desk shared me 5-6 air travel options and after lot of confusions I finally settled with Ethihad flight which connects Malatya through Abu Dhabi. There are 2 reasons for me to select that flight. The first reason being it's a much familiar flight for me as I took Ethihad for travelling to San Diego sometime in 2015 and my experience was very pleasant. The second reason being the fact that it has the least transit wait time and less overall travel time to reach Malatya.

I started on 3rd December night in Ethihad flight Chennai international airport. I only had about 1:15 minutes of flight transfer time at Abu Dhabi airport. It was my bad luck that the flight reached Abu Dhabi around 55 minutes late due to heavy fog leaving me only only 20 mins for flight tranfer. I had to run and catch the flight to Istanbul and finally reached Istanbul airport. This is where the second challenge was waiting for me. I was looking for my baggage for 30 minutes and finally realised that it was missing. I went to the baggage lost counter to file a complaint where I got to know that my check-in baggage got struck at Abu Dhabi as it was missed in the flight tranafer. I reminded of the fact that I only had about 20 minutes of tranfer time at Abu Dhabi. I then realized that I am yet to get a turkish SIM. So I gave them my Chennai number, went out and got a local Turkish SIM, called back the baggage lost counter and updated my local number. Good that I foresaw these kind of issues and kept one set of dress in my carry-on luggage with myself.

I finally reached Malatya and this where the next challenge was waiting for me. The temperature at Malatya was freezing cold with less than 0 degree Celsius. I felt my blood getting freezed if I stand still. Not to forget the fact that my thermals and woolen jacket are in the lost check-in luggage which got struck at Abu Dhabi. I checked into the Ramada Plaza Malatya Altin Kayisi hotel at Malatya. I received the call from Ethihad baggage counter next day and I spoke rough to them as my brother advised me and I would say it really worked. My baggage got delivered to my hotel room at Malatya the very next day all the way from. Abu Dhabi to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Malatya and further from Malatya airport to hotel room in 4th floor.

I really had a wonderful learning experience in this business trip. I got an opportunity to see a live liver transplant operation at Inonu University Hospital at Malatya and the Hospital staff explained how the Hospira infusion pumps are being used in operating rooms. I really felt happy and proud to see how my work was helping to save people's life. The next biggest challenge waiting for me was communication. Unlike our country, everywhere in Malatya is written only in Turkish. Only less that a percent of people in Malatya speak turkish with even the front desk managers at the hotel could not communicate properly in English. I missed to mention about the power adapter issue. The power sockets in Turkey are of different type and none of the Indian and US type power plugs will fit into it. I managed  to buy a adapter which converts the US type to Turkish type plug from nearby electronic mall to power up my mobile and laptop.

The one another big challenge I would like to mention was about food. Thank GOD I am not a veggie as this country don't offer much option for veggies. Everything in Malatya is either chicken or meat. So what meat ? Only the cook knews :). I sticked to chicken for all 5 days and I would say the food is not so great but I somehow managed. I used to go to a nearby shopping mall called Malatya park which had lot of food options but I settled with McD as it had its menu card written in English. Just to clarify that it was the only restaurant which had its menu card written in both English and Turkish among all other restaurants which gives only Turkish menu. Thanks to McD for its International policy of maintaining English menu favouring international travellers from around the globe.

I decided to make a local sightseeing for 2-3 hours in my free time on fourth day. But Malatya is not a place of touristic importance and there wasn't much options. I managed to visit a famous grand mosque in a place called Battalgazi and a place called Aslantope ruins where archiologists invade and uncover many ancient sculptures. I am sure these visits will remain in my memory for the years to come. One think that irritated me was smoke. People at Malatya smoke a lot to withstand the freezing cold and as a result all public places, toilets, restaurants and even streets are filled with smoke. As a non smoker, I had a difficult time to breath the smoke filled atmosphere.

So what's special in Malatya? In one word, Apricots. I see Apricots everywhere. Apart from that turkey is famous for European chocolates, Lokum and Baklawa sweets. I managed to purchase a box of these for my family. Apart from these I bought a cabin luggage in an offer price and a colorful kitty shall for my sweet wife.

Having said lot of challenges I faced at Malatya, it's time to mention some good points. The city is very clean and neat with well laid roads, beautiful buildings and well maintained pavement without any garbage spills. Unlike our country where private hospitals dominate medical industry, that have big government university come Hospital which serves not only Malatya but also other surrounding areas on Turkey. I wonder if this can even happen at India.

I returned to India on 11th December 2016 early morning and fell asleep. And that when I got call from my Manager asking whether I reached India safe. Only then I came to know that there was a big blast in Istanbul which killed 29people and it happened just 5 hours I started from Istanbul. Thank God I reached home safe and sound without any problem. So I would like to conclude saying that the world is full of challenges and each challenges makes us more stronger than yesterday. So next time when you face some difficulty while traveling, consider that as an opportunity to grow and get stronger. Awaiting more travel and challenges in the future...

Think !!! Decide !!! Think Different !!!