Nobody to Check over my shoulder for

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We left our plucky heroine halfway through a blog post when she passed out, exhausted, in a hostel in Istanbul. Where had she stopped in her narrative…airplane? Airplane. Well, the airplane ride was just like any other, except as we landed; I’d never been in a plane whose passengers burst into applause the moment the aircraft touched down. A collective cheer went up throughout the cabin, and my first thought as I applauded with the rest was I’m going to like Turkey. And so I did.

You know that knee-jerk reaction we have to check over our shoulders to ensure that whoever we’re with is still there? As I stepped off the plane, I had that sudden urge to look around, to make sure that–oh. There’s nobody I need to check for. Just me.

I’d like to write about how it was some big epiphany, but it wasn’t really; it was more a sudden realization of my absolute solitude and independence in the world at that particular point in my trip. It made me want to laugh, dance, throw my blue carpetbag in the air and SING. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING! I AM IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY, BY MYSELF, AND I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT I’M DOING AND I LOVE IT! I’M FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

After figuring out how visas work (it’s simpler than I thought. You go hand $20 to the guy in the corner behind the desk that says “VISAS”) and making it past passport control, I wandered – bemused, amused, confused – to change another $20 to Turkish liras. I had no clue what was going on, and was grinning like a goddamn fool, so I guess I figured having some local currency would give me some small sense of security. I also realized that nobody changes Moroccan dirhams except in Morocco, because it’s illegal to export dirhams. Oh yeah. I walked out of the first set of exit doors and was greeted by an enormous, chattering crowd of people hanging over the bar, holding signs, craning their necks for loved ones and, in my case, strangers. I found my name printed in neat, red block letters on a piece of paper taped to a couple other pieces of paper. I met Sammy, a young Turkish guy holding my sign, and then went to an ATM to get cash to pay the hostel. Their prices had been in Euros, so I got some Euros and started laughing at how my coin purse was now a mind-boggling combination of Euros, Turkish Liras, Moroccan Dirhams, and American dollars. This whole trip just makes me want to laugh out loud like some delirious inchworm.

It was with this exhilarated sort of energy that I marched out of Ataturk Airport to stand munching popcorn and wafer cookies, talking animatedly with a couple random Turkish men in that crowd waiting for loved ones and strangers. Was it only Thursday that I presented a research proposal, went to Arabic class, and packed my blue carpetbag with my stomach churning? Only yesterday that, terrified but determined, I got on a train to Mo’5 airport? How we change when we realize our own agency to live fully, how we thrive when we grab our lives and experiences by the balls and MAKE them our own! I feel awesome about living right now. I can see why people travel just for the adventure of it. It feels so good to do things under my own steam, for my own reasons, in the big, wide, strange, wonderful world.

When I first wrote this in my notebook, there were 4 of us waiting for the airplane to Batumi, which made me want to laugh even more. What a great trip. How strange that, over the course of my first 2 months in Morocco, surrounded by people all the time, I felt lonely–and here, alone in a beautiful, dangerous part of the world where my language skills are useless, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m relishing this short-lived solitude, loving the challenge of figuring stuff out, enjoying my own cluelessness about the world around me because that makes is so much more FUN. I’m having a blast. What a weird story.

Anyway, Istanbul. I am in love with Istanbul. After waking up and eating breakfast with some Swiss and German people, I went for a walk in the brilliant sunshine and crisp morning air. I walked to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, talked to several Turkish people, and had an all-around fantastic morning. Istanbul is a beautiful, beautiful city, and Turkish people are awesome. I returned to the hostel to catch a shuttle bus to the airport, but not before giving the matron of the house a Moroccan Dirham note to add to the world currencies displayed beneath the glass on their kitchen tables. An American who lives in Morocco? they say to me. that’s weird. Georgia? Wow.

Istanbul, I’m in love. See you soon.

And now I’m waiting to catch a plane to Batumi, Georgia, where I’ll see an old friend. Going from imaginary to real again will be awesome for him, I’m pretty sure. It must be tough being imaginary. Lots of my friends at home are becoming steadily more imaginary, as our shared experiences dwindle as we live in different parts of the world, doing different things. That’s not a bad thing; we’ll pick up where we left off, with all the more stories to share. Okay. BATUMI. LET’S GO.

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