Monday (9.13.10) marked the end of the Bayram. My hosts needed to return to work and they had a cleaning lady coming in so I had to vacate their flat at eight in the morning and head off to the bus depot. I woke up feeling truly horrendous. Over the past few days my brothers and I had been in contact to try and find me a way home – hopefully as inexpensively as possible. I’d originally planned to leave through Syria and book it to Tel-Aviv (one of Continental’s only destinations East of Germany) but on checking visa requirements once again in Bursa, I discovered that contrary to what I had previously read, I couldn’t enter Syria. Just one month back the government had changed it’s policy for American citizens entering by land, and I’d now need to have obtained a visa from the Washington, D.C. embassy many months in advance.
The flight I’d attempted to purchase to notoriously relaxed Amsterdam (which also has an international zone so I wouldnt have to violate my 90 day Schengen stay) bounced for whatever reason. At eight in the morning, fatigued beyond all belief, pained in the abdomen and with a splitting headache that even impeded my ability to see, I let go of my stubbornness to save, my pride to break even and bought the ticket my brothers recommended me, which would leave the morning of the 15th and arrive twenty four hours later in Gainesville. At this point I feared appendicitis and for whatever combination of reasons I wanted to be in America if I needed an operation. In Gainesville, my brothers noted, there’s Shands.
And so, after months of counting every last grosz, cent, crown or kurus, I halved my savings account, my safety net, in a single transaction. My brothers insisted that while saving money is well and good, the whole being alive thing was worth it. If I wasn’t desperate and half-delirious my pride may have won out – so perhaps it’s good I was so unwell at that moment.
The travels back home passed miraculously. I could hardly stomach anything and spent most of my time trying to sleep away the headaches and pain. Every six hours or so (it wasn’t precisely so regular) I was hit by a wave of fatigue that completely incapacitated me for hours. Somehow these waves hit at precisely the right times, and I’d awake or come to myself just in time to keep going.
As soon as I arrived at the Bursa Otogar, for instance, I curled in a little ball in a restaurant booth and passed out. I awoke just half an hour before my bus, enough time to post my letters. A nice young man with a guitar sat nearby and I had him play me something – he played brilliant flamenco style guitar, technically virtuosic but with little musicality or rhythm – and at his bidding I sang a soft I Will Follow You Into the Dark over which he soloed. I boarded the bus and the fat man beside me with the kindest eyes, like a worried uncle, looked after me. I literally passed immediately after I took my seat but he made sure I was up to accept the cakes they passed and the drinks. At one point, near the end I was half-way delirious and spilled my leftover juice all over the both of us. I apologized over and over but he shushed me like one would a child, insisting it was no problem. I couldn’t focus again, couldn’t read but I didn’t need to – he disembarked with me at Esenler, İstanbul and informed the attendant on the ground where I needed to go, worried all the time for me and not even noticing his spoiled white shirt. Something like a concerned angel, the care in his eyes keeping me afloatas much as his actions.
I was once again alert for the Metro ride to the airport. Alert while I scoured the terminal for someone who could help me – as Delta’d already closed. I wanted to move my flight earlier. No one could assist me and I turned my energy to finding lodging. I knew I hadn’t the energy to go to the Hostel I’d picked out – it was doubtful if I could find my way back well, or deal with the rush of people and the lack of air conditioning. I haggled, weakly, with the travel agent downstairs and he put me up in Saka Hotel, providing me with free private transit back to the airport for the morning of the flight, at three in the morning.
My energy ran out when I arrived at Saka Hotel. For the next thirty three hours I spent most of my time trying to sleep away my discomfort, emerging once for the internet cafe and other times for rice and salad at the next door döner stall whenever I felt I could eat. I became rather well acquainted with the bed and the television. One of five channels would air English language movies or shows and these helped while away the time. Some felt like dull anaesthetics that hurt as much as they helped – Gossip Girl, English Club-TV – but others made me forget a little – Adventures of Merlin, White Oleander. My cycles of fatigue continued and I feared I’d sleep through my shuttle ride to the airport.
I awoke before my alarms, relatively energetic, and remained that way all the way until I reached the gate, two hours prior to departure. Only then did the fatigue knock me out again. I woke again minutes before boarding closed. I woke again just before landing in Rome and perservered long enough to get through baggage re-check, new security, finding Delta, eating a bowl of fruit before passing out again in the stall of the fancy cafeteria “Food, Inc.” I’d sought out a couch in the disabled area but the cruel male worker would have none of it, telling me, sardonically in a “it’s not my problem” sort of way to “Call an Ambulance!” when I told him I was very unwell. In the cafeteria a worker tapped me on the shoulder to wake me and tell me I wasn’t allowed to sleep there – but perfectly this was after an hour and half had elapsed and just minutes, again, before my flight closed boarding.
The plane was delayed on the ground for nearly three hours during which I was alert and talking relatively happily to my neighbors about possible busking destinations in America. Only after we took off did the fatigue set in. I woke directly before dinner then passed out again a few hours prior to landing, only to wake again exactly at the call for the initial descent – enough time to fill out customs forms et al. I felt moderately human and hobbled my way quickly through customs, bag re-check and security, and despite having just under an hour in Atlanta before my next flight departed I made it with the perfect time to spare, about five minutes. I passed out on the plane to Gainesville, felt alert until I arrived home, then passed out soon after.
This was all to relate just how fortunate my times of incapacitation were. Somehow everything conspired for me, even the delayed plane or the disgruntled cafe workers. I’ve been home over two weeks now and I’m itching to head back off. My mother wants me to remain and assist her with the house but I feel stagnant and my allergies are going crazy. I plan to jet off as soon as I feel human in the morning. It’s funny how you don’t know what you have until you’re missing it. I never noticed being healthy, feeling strong, having energy – I just took it for granted. Even if I ever took sick I’d be able to think well or get up and walk about without feeling like my legs would give out and after a few days I’d be generally fine. I think I’ll take that youth less for granted now.