Archive for December, 2011

CHRISTMAS – IN OUR HEARTS

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

This is a very special time of the year for millions of people around the world.  Not because we give or receive gifts.  Not because we have time to spend with those we love.  And not because of all the great food that (literally) overwhelms us during this season.  This is a special time because of what and Who we celebrate – the birth of Jesus the Christ.

In today’s politically-correct and often religiously intolerant society, many are cautious about publicly acknowledging their faith and calling themselves a “Christian.”  The label sometimes carries with it negative stereotypes.  I prefer to call myself a Christ-follower, someone who believes in the teachings of Jesus and wants to emulate his life in my own.  Being like Jesus is not about keeping the rules, going to church, or giving your money away.  It’s about knowing His forgiveness and committing acts of grace and mercy on a consistent basis. It’s about living a life that values all people – regardless of their race, nationality, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), their sexual orientation, or any other factor.  It’s about having a heart that is sensitive to the needs of others and being willing to step in and help a brother or sister.  It’s about allowing God to use you and all the unique abilities and talents you have in a way that brings worship to him as the Creator.  It’s about sharing His forgiveness – not only through our words but through our actions and attitudes – with the people we meet and work with on a daily basis.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus because through his life, death, and resurrection we find forgiveness and purpose for our own lives.

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone – may this season be filled with meaning and memories for you, your family, and friends.

BACK IN THE USA

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

I apologize that I haven’t posted anything since we arrived back in the USA. We left Istanbul very early in the morning (thank you Fatih for being there at 4:30am to pick us up).  We flew Istanbul to Munich; Munich to Charlotte, NC; and Charlotte to Lynchburg. The entire trip was about 20 hours but, with the change in the time zone, it was the longest day ever!  It was also my birthday – a plane ride around the world was the perfect gift.

On Friday, the equipment was delivered back to our warehouse.  Alan, Chase, and I unloaded the truck and moved the cases.  We will come back in a couple of days and go through everything to make sure it’s all good.

We are trying to gear up for the holidays.  The temperatures are still warm here – in the 50′s and 60′s – so it’s tough to think “winter holiday” when the weather is like this.  However, I’m not complaining – I’ll take warm weather over cold weather any time!

Our entire team is taking the next few days to relax, enjoy family and friends, and get back into the time zone.  Things pick back up again in early January so we’re going to make the best of the time we have.

Merry Christmas everyone…and may 2012 bring you peace, prosperity, and health.

FINAL DAYS IN ISTANBUL

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

After three full-house performances at the TIM Show Center in Istanbul, we had a few days to relax before flying home for the holidays. Our time in Turkey has been a memorable experience.  I feel as though we have made so many new friends.  Working the Olcay, Fatih, Burcu, and the entire team at the Show Center was a great pleasure.  Yesterday, I received an email from Olcay letting me know that the cases had been picked up by the truck and were on their way to customs.  And Mary Ellen emailed from Los Angeles to let me know that they made it on the plane and are on schedule for delivery to our warehouse on Friday.  Perfect!

MONDAY

Monday was mostly a day to relax.  Cindy has still be fighting a bad cold and she needed this time to take care of herself, get some rest, and feel better.  Turns out rest is really what she needed (and some Vicks vapor rub, tylenol, and meds for a stuffy nose).  As is my habit, I went down to breakfast early at the hotel to read and relax.  When the restaurant had cleared and I was drinking my last cup of coffee, the waiters and staff came to my table with a birthday surprise – and, wow, was I surprised!  They even sang “Happy Birthday” to me!

TUESDAY

On Tuesday, we managed to squeeze in several things in  a few hours.  We made a visit to the “Sunken Palace” to see the Basilica Cisterns. They are believed to be built around 530 AD but weren’t discovered until 1530.  There is a famous scene in the James Bond movie, TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE, that was filmed in the cisterns.  There are two giant medusa heads that are believed to have come from ancient Roman ruins.  It was definitely worth the visit and Cindy’s favorite site of our time in Istanbul.

After the Basilica Cisterns, we decided to take another adventure into the giant Grand Bazaar.  There is so much to see in this place with over 4,000 vendors.  We found that there are many more places outside the covered bazaar – and they bargain much better than the ones inside.  Cindy really knows how to barter with these guys and we walked away with some really good deals.  Now we just need to figure out how to get them home!

As we walked around the area, we found a great “alley of art” – graffiti art, modern art, etc.  The entire alley was filled with fun little boutiques, cafes, and (of course) mural art on the walls.  Cindy wanted to take a few of pictures and I managed to get into a couple of them.

And then there were the more casual moments when I didn’t even know she was taking a picture!  I was looking over one of the walls by the Palace just wondering what could possibly be on the other side…and I could I explore it!

WEDNESDAY

Our final day in Istanbul was fairly relaxing.  I took my morning walk around the neighborhood and then back to the hotel for breakfast and coffee…and to say good-bye to the morning staff.  They have gone above-and-beyond to make us feel welcome.  We are now Facebook friends so I hope we can stay in contact between now and the time we return.

After breakfast, Cindy and I walked down to the Metro to catch the train to Taksim and connect on to Kabatas and then to the Grand Bazaar (yup, one more trip to the market).  As we walked down the street toward the Metro, we passed a delivery truck dropping off flour to the bakeries in the area.  I have never seen this much flour so I had to snap a quick picture!

We spent the day walking around the Bazaar area – mostly eating our way around the area.  There are a couple of McDonald’s here but I wanted to try something different….so Cindy and I had the McTurko – delicious!

We walked around the Bazaar for a couple of hours and then decided to walk toward the sea (it was either the Black Sea or the Aegean Sea) and explore those areas.  We picked up a few gifts for people, talked with some of the locals, and had a great time.  Several times over the past couple of days, people who watched me on the Saba Tumer show or were at one of the performances at TIM Show Center recognized me – either on the Metro, in the market, or simply walking down the street.  Many times, there were huge groups of people who simply wanted to take a photo or say hello.  It was a very humbling experience…and just a little overwhelming at times.

Later in the day, we had some of the more traditional Turkish foods – meats, vegetables, and sweets.  However, on the way back to the hotel late in the day, we just had to stop at a very unique place to check out the menu!

We made it back to the hotel by 5pm.  We are calling it an early night tonight.  We leave the hotel at 4am for the airport so that means getting up at 3am – that’s going to come very fast!

A final note: Spain was the perfect place to start this tour.  It’s hard to believe it was almost a month ago that we landed in Bilbao.  If you’ve read my blogs from Spain, you know that we made many new friends there.  Istanbul is, perhaps, one of the friendliest cities in which we’ve ever visited.  The people are warm, gracious, and helpful. When you consider it has more than 17 million residents, that says a lot.  I look forward to the time when we return.  It was the perfect city in which to finish our tour.  Tomorrow, we fly back to the USA – there’s no place like home.

FINAL SHOWS AT TIM SHOW CENTER – ISTANBUL

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Today was the last performance in Istanbul…and the audience did not disappoint us.  It was a sold out crowd of families for the 3pm matinee.  There was a lot of energy in the theatre.  I’ve learned that Turkish audiences are very inquisitive, incredibly curious!  They watch very closely…and, after the magic has happened, they respond audibly.  I have very much enjoyed performing in Istanbul.  It reminds me so much of our time in Spain!

Everyone here associated with the marketing of our performances has been great.  They have invested a lot of time and energy into getting the word out – and it resulted in three very successful shows.  It has been a great privilege to work with such dedicated people who are also extremely nice.  It has been a memorable experience and I feel like we’ve made some very good friends here.  At the end of today’s performance, they presented both Cindy and with a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers.

I hope we will have the chance to come back in the future and do it again!

After the show, our team packed all the cases to get it ready for shipment.  Tomorrow morning, the truck will come at 9:30am to pick up the cases.  The first step is delivering them to customs for export to the US.  Then they’ll be loaded onto a plane for Washington, DC before being delivered to our warehouse in Virginia.

We now have three days in Istanbul to spend some time seeing the city, experiencing the culture, and doing some shopping!

OPENING NIGHT IN ISTANBUL

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Last night was opening night at the TIM Show Center in Istanbul, Turkey.  And what a great night it was!!

We arrived in late afternoon to finish some of the technical requirements, had a quick dinner, and shortly after that the doors opened for the 9pm show.  The audience excitedly entered the theatre, found their seats, and were ready for the show to start.  It was a full house of enthusiastic people.  When I appeared on stage, the applause and cheers made me feel like a rock star!  The energy remained high for the entire show.

In the lobby afterwards, I had the chance to meet literally hundreds of people – including some members of the Turkish Parliament who were in attendance with their families.  It was an exciting night for sure.

This morning, I decided to walk up the street from our hotel to buy a few things at the store.  I was surprised to hear my name being called by people all over.  Next thing I knew, there was a group of people all wanting to get their pictures taken.  Surreal to say the least!

SET UP DAY AT TIM SHOW CENTER – ISTANBUL

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Tonight is the first show in Istanbul.  After a strong appearance on the SABA TUMER show on SHOW TV, two television news interviews, banners, billboards, video screens, and great coverage in the regional newspapers, we have three sold out performances here.  Needless to say, I’m very excited about being on stage tonight!

Yesterday all of the equipment arrived from Italy and was delivered to the stage.  My team arrived around 11:30am and began our day of setting up the show, preparing the lights, and the beginning stages of some of the tech.  This venue is beautiful but it’s also a modified thrust stage (a large portion of the stage extends into the audience).  This creates a wrap-around of the audience creating some interesting angles that we needed to address.  We’ve performed on these types of stages before so it was just a matter of rearranging a few things to make it all work.

We were able to get our scenery in the air easily.  They have an abundance of lighting instruments that we could use so Keith and I needed only to choose which ones, move a few to new positions, figure out the dimmer numbers, and patch the light board – then we were ready to focus!  The day moved along at an easy pace.  The technical staff at the TIM Show Center is awesome, willing to take the time to make sure everything is right (or should I say perfect) before moving on to the next step.

Alan and Chase spent most of the day setting up illusions and configuring the backstage area while Keith and I worked with the lighting.  Cindy is battling a nasty cold so she decided to stay at the hotel and get some much needed rest.

We’ll be driving back over to the theatre today around 3:30pm to finish up the details for the 9pm show.  More later…

TV SHOW & GRAND BAZAAR

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

This morning, Chase and I had breakfast and then met up with Olcay and Burcu to head over to the television station. The station logo looked a lot like NBC but I’m not sure they are affiliated.

They have been working very hard to get the word out about the performances here.  The good news is that tickets are selling GREAT!  It looks like all three shows in Istanbul will be sold out.  As we drove to the station, there were billboards all over town and large banners stretched across the bridges over four lanes of the main roads.  Last night I watched a video commercial play on one of the large digital billboards over the Metro Entrance.

You can watch the video here:  BILLBOARD COMMERCIAL – ISTANBUL

We arrived at the SHOW TV studios and then to the set of SABA.  This is the most popular morning show in Turkey so it was a real honor to be a guest on the show.  I shared the stage with a famous Turkish actor who had a new movie coming out on Friday and the newly crowned Miss World Model.

My 7-minute “guest appearance” turned into a 90-minute “stick around and let’s talk.”  I was able to perform a few tricks and they showed a lot of footage from the show to give the audience an idea of what the large-scale illusions were like.  It was a great experience and I had a fun time.  During the break, I had my picture taken with several members of the studio audience.  And, of course, I had my picture taken with the host, Saba, and Miss World Model.

Chase and I arrived back at the hotel around 4pm.  Cindy and I decided to get something to eat and then walk to the local mall and explore.  I stopped at Starbucks to get a coffee and was immediately recognized by everyone behind the counter as the “magician from Saba.”  As we walked through the mall, people were stopping to look, some took pictures, many of them came up and talked.  It was very cool but a little weird.  We finally had to leave the mall because we were causing a bit of a stir.  We decided to stop by the area grocery store to pick up a few things to take to the hotel room and the same thing happened there.  We retired for the night in the quiet of our hotel.

Yesterday, Cindy and I had a chance to relax and walked through the Grand Bazaar.  This market of over 4,000 vendors has been in existence since the 14th Century.  Quite an amazing place!  This is only the entrance…

Inside, the place is filled with merchants selling jewelry, carpets, clothing, and just about anything you can imagine.  We picked up a few items, bargained with the vendors (Cindy is really, really good at that!), and had a great time relaxing in Istanbul.

And I took this picture in the morning from my hotel room.  This is the skyline of Istanbul from where we are.

ISTANBUL – MOSQUE & SOPHIA

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

I had a rough time going to sleep last night.  You would think after being awake for more than 20 hours, sleep would come easily.  It didn’t.  I laid in bed for several hours before finally dosing off.  But, once asleep, I think I slept very well.  I woke up around 7:30am.  Cindy and I talked for a while then I went down for breakfast.  Chase joined me for breakfast.  Everyone here at the hotel is very accommodating and friendly.  I enjoyed two cups of coffee, some cereal, and a few things that I’m not exactly sure how to explain. Afterwards I walked outside to a small bakery and picked up a few things for Cindy to eat.

We thought we would spend the day in Taksim, the central district of Istanbul where there are many historical buildings and sites.  We made our way to the Metro and then to the Train.  A quick trip and we were there – Alan, Chase, Cindy, and I.  Keith was going to hang around the hotel area today so he didn’t join us…maybe tomorrow for the Grand Bazaar.

As we came off the train, the image of the SultanAhmet Mosque could be seen in front of us – quite impressive.

We made our way that direction but was sidetracked by FOOD.  We enjoyed chicken sandwiches in the park before walking toward the mosque.  All around us were tempting things to eat including this guy with his homemade candy!

After lunch, we continued our walk toward the mosque.  Afternoon prayers had begun so we wouldn’t be allowed inside the main structure but we could visit the interior courtyard where I was able to take three pictures and, thanks to photoshop, merge them into a single image.

We had a while before prayers would be over and we would not be allowed inside the main building until that time, so we decided to walk a couple of blocks to the HagiaSophia, or the Eye of Sophia.  This building was constructed in 532 AD and used as a church for more than 900 years.  After Fatih Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 29 May 1453, it was converted into a mosque for more than 400 years.  After 1935, it was converted into a museum.  Hagia Sophia is known as one of the greatest buildings of the world and generally considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Here are a couple of pictures from inside the building.  It’s very unique with both Islamic and Christian symbols inside.

In order to get to the upper level, you had to walk up a ramp that for several floors.  It was made of stone and dimly lit which made for a cool picture.

After spending some time at the Eye of Sophia, we walked back to the Mosque to see if we could view the inside.  Prayers had just finished and there was a huge crowd of people leaving.  We waited and then entered through the visitors entrance.  It was beautiful inside and there were many people still praying.  We quietly made our way through the building and left.

We took a lot of pictures today.  I’ll be going through them over the next few days and start posting some on Flickr.  In the meantime, I know Cindy is posting some on her Facebook page!

ARRIVAL IN ISTANBUL

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

We have arrived in Istanbul after a very early day of travel.  We woke up at 4am in Verona, Italy.  Our driver was there to pick us up at the Grand Hotel promptly at 5:10am to get us to the airport.  Needless to say, traffic was not bad that early in the morning so we made good time.  Once we got to the airport, it was an easy check in and we were on our way.  We had a brief layover in Rome before catching our connecting flight to Istanbul.  We picked up our luggage, made our way through passport control and customs and were met by Fatih from the TIM Show Center.  It was great to see a smiling face on our arrival!  Not since Josune met us in Bilbao have we been so welcomed to a new city!

Fatih had arranged for our transportation to the hotel.  We are staying in the City Center, close to many incredible things.  Fatih pointed out many of them to us along the way so we can get back to each and visit.  This is a very large city – over 17 million people – and the traffic bears out that fact.  One of the main highways had a massive accident involving 134 cars – a record for Istanbul (and we were here).

When we arrived at the hotel, Olcay was also there to greet us.  I have been emailing with her for several months so it was great to finally met her face-to-face.  Inside the lobby, there was a large poster promoting the performances here.

Once we were settled in our rooms, I had a quick meeting with Olcay and Fatih to talk about upcoming television appearances and the press conference.  She surprised me with a copy of the STAR, the largest newspaper in the city, that included a nice feature on the show and Healing of Magic.

And this very nice flyer….

After our meeting, Cindy and I decided to explore the area and find some food.  We are surrounded by some great places to eat, even if we don’t recognize much of the food.  We stopped off at a little shop and ordered a couple of chicken sandwiches.  We also saw some potato fries and asked for an order of those too.  They gave them to us but they were ON our sandwich!  It was quite tasty!  After dinner, we stopped at another little place for some dessert and coffee – delicious!

We are checked into our hotel for 10 days so we thought we would buy a few things at the grocery store.  That was an awesome experience!  We found so many cool things.  I love the cereal boxes here – very colorful!  And I’m sure the cereal is great too!

After a walk through the neighborhood, we came back to the hotel.  It’s been a very long day but way too early to go to sleep.  The view from our window is magical…tomorrow we’ll visit the Blue Mosque and a few other sights.

VERONA, ITALY – A DAY OFF

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

So far, this has been an amazing tour.  If you’re just now checking the blog, please go back and read about our time in Spain.  It was magical in every way – the venues, the audiences, and all the people we had the privilege of getting to know and share our time. Fantastic memories!

Italy has been fun as well.  It’s much colder here though.  Imperia was a beautiful city on the Sea.  Sassuolo was quaint and peaceful. And now, we have been in Verona for two days to relax a bit.  This is a charming town filled with history, beautiful architecture, and great food.  We decided to stay in the historic district at the Grand Hotel.  It’s within walking distance of most everything.

We explored the area inside the “walls” of Verona where many of the historic buildings are.  We stumbled into the markets, the Christmas market (lots of great food and sweets!), the shopping district, the Verona Arena, the legendary balcony of Romeo and Juliet, and much more.  Here are a few of the pictures.  I’m posting more of them on Flickr.

Notice the difference in the way this warrior treated me….and Cindy!