Friday, December 21, 2012

The long journey to Turkey - Part 2

This is the second part of the story of my journey to Turkey that took much longer than I had planned and was a true test of my ability to navigate this country solo, which I unfortunately failed.

I awoke to a stiff landing at my final destination.  My eyes burned as I forced them open and I sorely got up to get my coat and backpack, prepping myself for the cold and rainy weather outside.  The plane was unnaturally warm and I was feeling quite closed-in and annoyed as all the other passengers impatiently pushed each other and me to get their bags and get out.  "What is their problem!" I thought.  We will all get out in due time, no way to get ahead by pushing in this line.

As we went inside I noticed there was a lot of milling about and talking on cell phones, which is pretty normal at an airport and especially when the flight is several hours delayed (as we were at that point).  I grabbed my 23 kilo bag when it came around and made my way outside to hopefully find benim canım so we could go home!  I didn't see him.  "What is this - he couldn't wait for me to arrive?"  I thought with some anger and disappointment.

The security guard motioned to the private buses waiting outside - "bus" he told me. 

I told him "hayır", "I don't need a bus, someone is picking me up".  He shrugged his shoulders and went about his business.

When I didn't find H. I became worried and asked for a telephone.  The nice security guard offered his own cell phone for me to use.  I called H. and told him I was at the airport in Kahramanmaraş "where are you?" I asked.  "I was just there, they told me you were going to land somewhere else, but I'll come back I'm really close by". 

"Okay", I thought.  "That's great, I'll just wait right here in the warm, albeit smoky, doorway for him to come."

Then I looked up at the screen showing flight information and realized for the first time that I was not in Kahramanmaraş after all.  We had landed in Gaziantep.  Everyone was getting on private buses to be escorted back to the appropriate city.  I went into panic mode, went back in to ask the security guard "Maraş değil mi?"  "Evet, Gaziantep  - bus to Maraş"  he replied.

Oh no!  I rushed to get on a bus.  I headed to the last one that looked like it still had room.  The passengers motioned to me in the rain that it was the wrong bus - "Orada Maraş" the pointed to the middle bus.  "Tessekur ederim!" I hollered and ran to jam my bag under the other bus.  Luckily they had taken notice that the American lady was going to Maraş and helped me to avoid that disaster.

I got on the bus and sat down in one of the few empty seats, surrounded by men on all sides.  All the empty seats were likewise, so it was really the only option and I wasn't that thrilled by it.  A young man sat next to me with short cropped light brown hair and a large crystal stud in his ear.  After I sat down I was in the mid-stages of travel panic.  I had just told H. I was at the airport in Kahramanmaraş and I didn't have any way to tell him otherwise.  I saw the young man playing with his phone and I asked him if I could make a phone call.  I knew enough of those words in Turkish to be understandable, but for some reason I could only blurt it out in English.  He reached for his phone on his lap and then stopped looked at me and said "No English".  Even though I had said it in English, telefon and telephone, really sound the same.  So I knew he just didn't want me to borrow his phone (in Turkey most people have credits and you are charged for the phone calls you make, but not the ones you receive).  I turned back to face forward and my eyes started filling with tears.  I should have just said it in Turkish again and showed him that it was a local number I needed to call.  Instead I closed up and didn't say another word.  I casually wiped my tears as they overflowed my eyes and tried not to appear too distressed.

I noticed how everyone around me was making calls and figuring out new plans for their travel.  I felt so helpless as I was unable to. 

I rehearsed in my head how I would ask to borrow a phone in Turkish, but I didn't want to try again.  I hoped that H. would return to the airport and get the news that we were coming on a bus and realize my mistake.  Then I also thought, he might panic and drive to Gaziantep - thinking that I was there waiting for him and missed the private bus.

I tried to sit back and relax.  The journey was quite beautiful as the rain turned to snow and the landscape around me was transformed into a white, winter snowscape.  While beautiful in the landscape, the snow also meant that the bus trudged along at an extra slow speed, which only amplified my anxiety that I had somehow caused major confusion and that H. would be braving the dangerous roads up to Gaziantep. 

For some reason, I couldn't help but feel anger towards the young man sitting next to me, who seemed to not care at all that I was obviously not Turkish, somewhat confused, and distressed.  He answered his phone a couple of times (it was his mom calling) and I heard how he rudely spoke to his own mother who (from what I could understand from my eavesdropping) was obviously a little worried for him as well.  There are jerks everywhere, so I just ignored him and focused on what I would do when the bus finally arrived.   We passed the airport (where I thought we would be dropped off), so I asked someone where we were going?  "Nereye gidiyoruz?"   "Seyir merkesi" the man sitting in front of me replied looking straight ahead.  As we pulled into the city center, congested with cars and pedestrians maneuvering in the slippery, snowy streets the bus abruptly stopped and everyone got up and the push to get out began anew.

The slushy and dangerous roads in the city
(Photo by Turklish)

When I made it to the front, I rushed around to get my bag, and then I planned to head to the nearest store with a kind-looking attendant so that I could borrow a phone.  I stopped cold when I heard my name and turned to find a familiar figure bundled in a hat and scarf coming my way.  I embraced H. as the tears streamed down my face. 

 "Why are you crying?  It's okay." 

 "I caused so much confusion - I told you I was in Maraş and I thought you might go to Antep and… " I took a breath.  

"Let's get your bag."  H. replied.

Avoiding the cars, we slid along the side of the bus to get my luggage and walked as fast as we could on the slushy sidewalk, pulling the 50lb (23kilo) bag to the parked car.  I felt so relieved.  Of course, my brilliant canım could figure out that I was jet-lagged and confused, but that I would eventually get on that bus.  He found out where the bus would come and waited for me. 

As we drove home among the crazy drivers in the slippery streets, I eventually relaxed - excited to finally get home to the warm apartment where I would be greeted by happy people, sweet tea and delicious food.

Later, safe and warm inside, we could enjoy the beauty of the snow that may only fall once a year - I just happened to be lucky enough to see it.

The view from the kitchen window
(Photo by Turklish)

Children playing in the snow and building a snowman
(Photo by Turklish)

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