Traveling. It’s a way to get lost both metaphorically and physically. Lost from stresses and worries at home, lost from old hurts and wounds, lost from the daily routine that has become bland and unexciting. But at the same time it’s easy to feel lost. Completely LOST! When you are traveling half way around the world, you expect to feel a little lost. Languages are different, customs are different, so it’s easy to feel like you are wandering around helpless and hopeless. I found that in the airport in Turkey. Flying from the US to Istanbul, Turkey was fairly easy. Turkish airlines was nice and accommodating. The flight attendants were very kind, and since the flight didn’t leave until 11 pm, most of the time we were sleeping. Upon our arrival in Turkey, however, it was a different story. The airport was noisy and HOT! As I had to catch a connecting flight, and since our original flight was 2 hours delayed, I felt a little panicky. The gate person didn’t speak English and only pointed in some direction. So I walked in that direction. I finally found the board where departing flights were displayed and tried to read it, but it flipped from flight to flight so quickly, it was hard to figure out. I finally heard some people speaking English, so I went up and asked them if they knew about the flight. Coincidentally enough, they were on my same flight. So, no longer feeling alone, I and my new Canadian friends, muddled through the airport and found our gate. Which, as it turns out, was RIGHT where we had disembarked, despite what the pointing gate agent said. We even had 15 minutes to spare!! I took a seat beside a Turkish family who had twin babies and two small children. One of the babies was screaming, and the mother looked like she was about to cry, so I smiled and offered to take the screaming baby. I don’t speak their language, and just kind of motioned that I would help her. And she handed the baby over to me. Just like that! I don’t think she was thinking, ‘crazy white lady’s gonna’ steal my baby.’ She was exhausted and frustrated, and probably tired of all the angry stares from the strangers surrounding her and welcomed my willingness to help. I am no stranger to screaming babies, so I walked with him and tried to entertain him, and he quieted down, and she (the mother) kept nodding and smiling and bowing. I just smiled and played with the baby. When it was time to board, I handed him back to his father, and they boarded the plane. Turns out their seats were 2 rows ahead of mine. So I smiled at them when I boarded. At the meal, they couldn’t eat because they had the two babies on their laps, so I and an Arab woman sitting next me, took the babies so they could eat their meals. The Arab woman spoke English and we chatted a bit about having babies and she told me about her life in Abu Dhabi. She is there for work also, and comes from Melbourne, Australia. We talked about what it was like to leave our homes behind. She was amazed that I was going on my own. She attributed my “bravery” to my being an American woman–who are–according to her, fearless. I assured her that I was not fearless, and was actually pretty terrified. She smiled and nodded, and said, it’s going to be fine. It’s always fine. My sister tells me that all the time. It’s all going to work out….
I also met a young woman who was seated across the aisle from me who was returning for her second year of teaching with the same group I’m going to be teaching with. She filled me in on all the details, and I asked her tons of questions, which she happily answered. She was coming from Birmingham, UK. She was very upbeat and positive about her experience. And thank God she was there, as there was no one there to meet me at the airport as promised. So I had to go through immigration on my own, but she helped me, and waited for me. And it was LATE. 2 am. And we were both exhausted. But she stayed around until I collected my bags, and then was willing to let me use her phone to call the “emergency” numbers I had. However, when we left baggage claim, there was a man holding a sign for me, so all was well. But it was a little disconcerting to arrive in a strange land with only a copy of my work visa and passport, then to be grilled by an Emerati man, and to have an eye scan. An EYE SCAN??? Thank goodness for my new friend who helped me know that all was well. Even the eyeball scan is perfectly normal. Ok…And the little man with the sign delivered me to the hotel. Where I am now. Waiting for orientation and my new permanent place to live.
What I learned from this whole traveling experience, is that when you are feeling lost, when you feel like you aren’t going to make it because you can’t find your departure gate, or because your baby is screaming, or because people don’t speak your language or even because of an eye scan, there will be people there for you, who will help you feel less lost. I think that it’s in those tough times that our humanity can shine and we can help each other be found. Till next time! L