Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The long goodbye and Blahrain blues

Bahrain International Airport: After 3 hours of a 6 hour stopover on my way to Kathmandu this airport has lost the allure of newness. I have strolled from end to end a few times now, once on a search for power -- a plug near seating for my quickly waning netbook. I thought I had scored over on the quieter side of the building, only to realize that I couldn't connect to wireless there.

Earlier today I had lunch with my ex. I don't like how that sounds, EX, just like I don't like other ex- words, particularly expatriate. We've seen a lot of each other since I returned from the States, since the divorce. Going on a brief vacation with him right after we left court, well, some friends say that is just plain weird. But, in fact, it felt completely natural. We had the beach in Iğneada pretty much all to ourselves since Turks seem to avoid beaches, esp. those on the Black Sea, till it's scorching hot. Also spent time in the mountains, going to an amazing cave called Dupnisa outside of Demirkoy, and afterward picnicking in the forest with one of Ev's old friends.

But back to today. We had an early lunch at Tike and then headed to the airport. After I checked in, we were heading to a somewhat isolated cafe for tea when the tears began, waves of emotion, of loss, swept over us both. We'd been in this airport and others, said so many goodbyes, but always with the guarantee of soon return.

I can't write this without those feelings washing over me again. I'm not sappy, not usually sentimental, avoid crying in public, but this loss is still very much a gaping wound, one that may not soon cease to completely overwhelm me. The intensity of these emotions has surprised me. I'm unsure what to do with them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I must do some speed blogging as my battery is about to run out and the power cable is not with me. So first, an update on the Indian visa fiasco -- I returned to the consulate yesterday, and the same woman who had treated me so curtly on Monday was suddenly much nicer when she noticed my Turkish residence booklet. "Oooh, you have Turkish residency, why didn't you tell me that before?" she asked. Well, perhaps you didn't give me a chance, didn't even bother to glance at my application, and only kept asking what my nationality was. End result, my app. was accepted, she barely even glanced at the rest of my paperwork, and told me my visa would be ready Tuesday.

Today was my day in court. I had never seen a courtroom before today and hope to never see one again. After waiting way past our appt. time, we were beckoned into the courtroom, where a female judge was presiding, something that made me feel slightly better. The proceedings were somewhat of a blur. I just remember saying, "Evet, evet" to a lot of things, most of which I only half understood, and when it was all over I was officially single.

Now, my ex and I agree that we need a break from the Bul and are heading out for a few days in Iğneada on the Black Sea coast. Yeah, it may sound bizarre that we're going on a mini-tatil together, but what the hell. We don't hate each other, far from it. Who knows what our relationship will look like in the future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Indian visa fiasco

Yesterday morning I set out for the Consulate General of India in the Elmadağ district of Istanbul to submit my application for a tourist visa. After hopping a taxi since I wasn't familiar with this district, I found only minutes later that I could've easily walked from Taksim.

Photo courtesy of Jon Rawlinson

As Americans, many of us take for granted how easy the process normally is for us to enter or acquire visas for other countries with our Holy Book -- the US passport. I breezed through security, confidently telling the guard that I was headed up to the Hindustan Konsolosluk. He smiled and directed me up to the 7th floor.

I rang the bell next to the consulate door, which struck me as very residential, and was promptly buzzed in. A middle-aged Indian woman welcomed me, asked what my nationality was, handed me number 13 (was this another omen?), and directed me to wait with the assortment of mainly Turks and two Brits.

As I waited she came over and handed me a verification form for non-Turkish applicants. I had all the other paperwork prepared. After waiting another 15 minutes or so the woman returned and inquired as to my nationality once again. When I told her again, she beckoned me over, saying, "You will need a letter of recommendation from the US Consulate with your application." A letter of recommendation? This wasn't something that had appeared on the list of requirements on their Web site. Since I knew the Indian Consulate only accepted apps. between 9:30 and 11:30 am, there would be no way to get all the way across town to the US Consulate in Istinye, get the letter and return to this consulate in time. Then the woman reminded me that tomorrow was a Turkish holiday, and thus they would be closed. I inquired as to why this letter didn't appear on the list on the consulate's Web site, and she just shrugged and replied that it is something they require.

Feeling a bit frustrated, I ran down the seven flights of stairs and took the long ride to Istinye and the US fortress on the hill, a building that I have for the most part been able to avoid for the past three years. When I arrived, I took in the snaking line of mostly Turks waiting at the entrance. After doing a passport flash, I was told to wait at the front of the line (feeling the icy stares at my back from those who had been waiting for who knows how long). In minutes I made it to the little room for American citizen services. When my number came up, I went up and told the woman what I needed. She gave a rather grim smile and told me she would give me an affidavit to fill out since they don't provide such letters. She said the Consulate of India had been problematic with giving visas to Americans.

I filled out the affidavit, basically just stating that I was applying for a visa and that my purpose for travel was tourism. I asked the woman if I should add anything else and she replied that what I had was fine. After shelling out $30 I was called up by a redheaded man and performed my swearing with the right hand raised to the truth of this statement. He explained that the Consulate of India has been making it difficult for Americans to obtain visas by requesting a letter that the US Consulate can officially not provide. He then handed me a letter for some further history on the matter, dated from November 1995. Here's an excerpt that sums up the official stance (with a strong dose of attitude) of the US on the issue:

The possession of a United States passport by the individual named therein is proof of that person's citizenship and of the fact that United States Government has no objection to the travel of that citizen outside of the United States. Neither this Embassy nor Consulate in Adana or Consulate General in Istanbul will provide additional documentation or statements to private American Citizens stating that the United States Government has no objection to travel.

So my own consulate had just provided me with a form for 30 bucks that they knew would not suffice for the Indian Consulate. And I was seemingly caught up in the midst of some longstanding row between the two. The redhead handed over my useless form and wished me luck, also noting that other countries' consulates are beginning the same practice, such as Saudi Arabia. Luckily not on my travel list this time.

After this I headed back to Taksim and did a search to find similar stories. Here's a sample of what I found:

Indian Tourist Visa in Turkey (for Americans in Istanbul)

The Indian visa saga

Hell gets hotter

So now, what to do? No time to head to Ankara as these bloggers recommend. I've got court here on Thursday and the process in Ankara is said to take at least 4 business days. I leave for Nepal on Wednesday.

Tomorrow I will return to the Dortler Apartments, No: 18, with all my papers, including the useless affidavit, I will summon all the politeness and charm in my being and I will wrangle that visa from their hands. At least, that's the plan...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome back, you're homeless!

Arrived back in the Bul on Saturday. Note to self: never fly Delta on international routes and avoid on domestic ones too. Suck it up and pay more for competent staff, newer fleets and leg room.

As always, Istanbul had some surprises in store, with my soon-to-be-ex announcing soon after my arrival that our landlord had insisted he clear the apartment so he could re-rent it immediately, though he had previously said I could stay till the end of the month. So after 4 legs of flying (Asheville-Atlanta, Atlanta-WA, WA-JFK, JFK-Istanbul) and my lack of ability to sleep on planes I got to figure out where I was going to spend my final week and a half here. Nevermind trying to find the stuff that I will need for my trip, which was boxed and distributed between Ev's offices and the flat in Beyoglu.

So here I am at an interesting little establishment in Taksim, waking up to the sound of jackhammers every morning. It's at least a great location, where I can easily reach the various consulates I need for my trip visas. And the court date for the divorce is coming right up on Thursday at a location that is also nearby. After that I will certainly reconsider accommodation options. And if I feel like observing the stream of global life that is Istiklal, all I have to do is walk about 20 steps from the hotel door, and voila!

Yesterday, wandered down to the waterfront at Dolmabahce and just watched all the boats float by. This morning headed out to apply for my Indian visa, or shall I say attempt to apply. That is a story for another day...

Basking in green: Accokeek, Asheville

Alexia and Brett's wedding, Accokeek, MD

My bro and I at Tom's Creek

Me & Mum

My niece playing in her sandbox

Jerry at The Light FM

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ocean of the unknown

I begin another year of my life today in the midst of several transitions. It will be a year characterized by re-s: regrouping, reinventing, relocating, renewing, rebuilding.

This month I will say a final goodbye to the partner whom I thought I would be spending the rest of my life with. I will say farewell to Turkey -- at least for now -- where I've called home for the last 3+ years. And earlier this month I worked my final day at the paper, my employer for close to two years.

The last few weeks have pushed me right up against my emotional limits. I've had to face fears that I didn't previously realize even existed within me. And this process is certainly not over yet.

The person who emerges from this process -- who will she be? Will I be unrecognizable to myself, my current self? Admittedly all of these changes coming at me all at once are scaring the heck out of me. And at times I have to remind myself to just focus on the moment, just get through what is directly in front of me; otherwise the future just looms too large, as one giant question mark or an ocean of the murky unknown.

Tomorrow I leave for a brief trip to the States to celebrate a friend's wedding and spend some much-needed time with family. Time for a breather from this situation. Then back here for another few weeks, in which the court date for the divorce is scheduled.

And so, a reminder for the moment from Ray (Lamontagne):

Don't let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don't try
Don't let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there's a strength that lies

Don't let your soul get lonely child
It's only time, it will go by
Don't look for love in faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find kindness

Be here now, here now