So my journey from Ankara to Istanbul and on to Paris has definitely be a fine one. I write to you from my plane ride from Zurich to Paris (so I guess I have yet to make it to my final destination of my friend Allyce’s 8×8 Parisian apartment) but nonetheless I think I can manage the streets of Paris – or so I hope. All the French I am surrounded by I am a tad intimidated. My Turkish will get me nowhere in the city of love.
But first things first, the whirlwind that was my last day in Ankara followed by my move west. I woke up around 6am to get my mind in Turkish mode. I had 4 huge Turkish Level exams to pass for my certificate and while the practices went smoothly, I knew the real deal was gonna be rough – and I was not wrong. They were super rough. While I passed I wasn’t so happy with my grades, even though I was third in the class and yes there were more than three people in my class. Close to 17 for this past month. Anyhow I know my placement amongst my peers because the school posts your grades outside the building – name and all! No number identification or anything. I think I prefer the US system that follows the privacy act. Anyhow, then it was off to a lunch with my roommate Azusa to wait out our teacher grading our exams. Around 1:30 we headed back and the grades were up which meant I needed to get some documents and my certificate. Long story short, the school system crashed right before they could print me my last document. WTF!!! Last day in Ankara people and they don’t have an email service – I thought this was the 21st century. So there I am with two teachers talking rapid Turkish at me and somehow I understand it all but still find myself sitting because I realize that something that was so close at my fingertips is now gonna be a massive hassle when I get back to Turkey. However, I thankfully know the manager of the Istanbul language school (she just so happens to be the second host sister – met her in Bodrum) so hopefully I can pull what few strings I have and get the Ankara branch to fax it to the Istanbul branch. Oy vey – I will be on an adventure when I get back.
So there I am walking down the street home one last time complaining – in Turkish to my Japanese roommate who is trying to calm me. If you know me and things don’t go near what I plan I can get a little hot headed – me hot headed in Turkish basically is me on repeat – wait – no me hot headed in any English is me on repeat. Finally got home, through the last of my belongings into my suitcases and Azusa and I headed out together – her to Kapadokya (the hot air balloon spot) and I to Istanbul. I went to hail a taxi and lets just say that saying “hey I need a taxi, but not here over there” sounds just as ridiculous in Turkish as it does in English but nonetheless I got the classic “buyurun” which means like please, come, here, etc etc. and I jumped in the back seat to show my taxi guy the way. Once at the bus stop I thought I was golden, but nope. There was mass confusion over the buses because there were two going to Istanbul by the same company and people were all mixed up over which one to get on. I waited patiently for the bus boy to finally come to my aid and after loading up my luggage I got comfortable for my 6 hour ride cross country. Funny thing about the buses – like airplanes they give you luggage tags. Do they do this in the US? I have no clue – I try to avoid bus travel in the US – bad experience as a freshman in college.
Anyhow, finally got to my stop in Istanbul which meant I was a 20 min taxi ride from my apartment that I hoped I remembered what it looked like. Granted I saw it in the daytime and by now it was close to 11 at night. I found a taxi driver and off we went. Now this guy was a joker. Ali was his name and well I kinda felt like I was in the Turkish version of “Cash Cab”. He would rattle a whole bunch of stuff of in Turkish about American pop culture and I would find myself trying to put it all together to figure out what he was talking about/help him remember something.
I give you some examples translated into English:
Film + War + Hawaii = Pearl Harbor
Film + War + not Tom Hanks = Braveheart
Film + Indiana Jones + Paris = Taken for me to later state that the actor is Lian Neeson)
And so that went on for a good five minutes until he decided that discussing adult libations would be a better topic. So there we were discussing spirits and liquors as he haphazardly drove through the dark streets of what I was hoping was the right neighborhood. What a ride, what a ride. Although I must say I would rather talk about alcohol than have my taxi driver pull over so that he can welcome me to Turkey by buying me a beer (true story).
Once I got to the apartment I was still unsure if it was the right place and the fear in my stomach didn’t subside until my roommate stuck her head out the window and yelled down to me. Hallelujah – I made it. I have moved a lot in my 23 years, but usually I am just a tag-a-long and my parents are the ones having to worry about it all. I should travel with yall more often (;
Quick side note since I mentioned the lovely parentals: HAPPY 29TH ANNIVERSARY! You two make it look easy. Kimber and I are so blessed to have you two wonderful people as our parents! I am super excited to be your tour guide in Istanbul in 2 weeks time!!!!
Ok back to travels.
So I hastily unpacked and got somewhat settled into my new digs and then realized that I was dead tired and would rather just wake up early to pack for my trip. Splendid idea. Now the night I arrived the hot water worked and so did the internet. When I woke up my roommate had just left and I was then left with cold water and no internet – I think my apartment is out to get me. But I made the best of it – remember I am an sort of an expert at cold showers. I then headed to the ATM to make a cash deposit for my rent – funny thing is you need a Turkish Identity # to do such a transaction – something I don’t have. So there I am in the bank trying to explain my situation to the bank clerk who knows no English and I certainly don’t know the proper vocabulary but somehow she figures out my problem and just uses the cop on duty’s Turkish identity number (not sure if that is legal but he is the law) so I went with it and all said and done my rent was paid and the receipt gave me confidence in the transaction. Now that surely delayed my travels but I was confident I could get to the airport in time. So I raced to the bus station and that went well. Once I got to the tram I needed to reload my card and naturally the machine was broken. Really? So I ran a good 1/3 of a mile (backpacking bag and all) to the nearest Bufe (Kiosk) that could reload my card for me. Raced back to the tram and naturally missed it by a 2 clicks – grrr, but finally was on board and arrived at the airport. Went through a security before the check-in desk where I was stopped for my Kindle – and that took a good ten minutes of unloading and reloading everything. Afterwards Check-in went super smooth, passport control – yeah not so much. Here comes my little passport control story for you…
In my world I am officially a resident of İstanbul having paid my first month’s rent, but in the eyes of Turkey I am still a resident of Ankara and not for much longer as my residence permit is on its last 15 days. Uh oh. I knew I would have to apply for a second residence permit, but wanted to forget that on my Euro Holiday. However, in going through passport control in Istanbul, the passport police man got all clicky tongue with me and was saying that I better be quick in my return. My response “Anladim” or I understand and at that he laughed. Only for me to race on to get to my gate. Really cutting it close Nat…seemed to be the trend of my day.
Boarded and sat next to a friendly Turkish lady – we ate some Turkish delight together and chit-chatted. Arrived in Switzerland and I must say it is quite a fancy airport. There are glass doors everywhere that just seem to open up to longer and longer corridors. At first you are not sure where the sign is directing you and then magically glass sliding doors reveal your way. This wasn’t my first time through the Zurich airport it, but my last time there surely made for a top three all time travel story for me and I am pretty sure any of my fellow travelers will tell you that I definitely was not conscious. To save you the gory details, flying back from India sick is something I would never ever wish upon my worst enemy. It is cruel and unusual punishment and Switzerland just happened to be part of my excruciatingly long journey back what with a 6-hour layover.
This time I did some exploring though since I had 2 hours to kill and I found a really cool fresh market restaurant/café. I enjoyed some fruit and was working on my Turkish composition when I realized that I had 15 min to get my gate before it closes. I set off on yet another mad dash. Let me just say that naturally when you are in a rush your gate will be the farthest away – no joke. My day was a rollercoaster of ups and downs and it wasn’t over yet. Little did I know that while I had three currencies on me, I had haphazardly left my envelope of Euros in my apartment – real smart Nat. I realized this in Switzerland but naturally the only currency that is getting spit out there is CHF à that took me up to my third currency. So there I was in angst of finding an ATM in the airport train station and to my bad luck I had to run another good 1/3 mile to find one and pull some Euros. So I can say that I am safely on the RER Train into Paris with 4 currencies on me so I hopefully won’t run into anymore currency issues along the way and hopefully all machines will be on my side. In 30 min I should be with my good friend Allyce and by then I will have forgotten about all of this or at least will be re-telling it over a nice bottle of French wine. Until my next travels from Europe. Look for a post on Friday (hopefully) recapping my adventures in Paris.
And I just realized that this is super long….wow but pictures will be forthcoming so hang tight.
Do you have a favorite memory, restaurant, or activity to do in Paris?
Cheers from a Swiss Airplane and a Paris Train