Farewell, My Lovely

I can’t believe I’m leaving Izmir in 5 days.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. There’s been a lot of logistical things to take care of, like closing my Turkish bank account and settling up with my landlord, and a lot of thinking about the future.

I’ve also been busy lining up my next job, applying to teach English in South Korea like I’d originally planned. And it’s a big process. I’ve spent so much time emailing recruiters, ordering transcripts from my university, filling out applications, writing sample lesson plans, and getting my fingerprints done for a background check.

The fingerprinting saga is a story in itself! I printed the fingerprint card off of the FBI’s website, and took it and a Turkish friend to the police station. The police looked at us like we were crazy, and sent us to the migration office, who sent us to the foreigner’s police office, who said that they could not do it without an official request from my consulate. Oy. I emailed my consulate. After a few back and forth emails, they referred me to the US embassy’s website, which states that I didn’t need a request, all I needed to do was print off the fingerprint cards and take them to the foreigner’s police office.

This is the thing about Turkish bureaucracy: no one talks to each other, but they all act like they know what’s going on. So we went back to the foreigner’s police and showed them the fingerprint cards. This time, they said yes, it can be done- but not at their office. We took a bus to Bozyaka, a neighborhood in Izmir that I’d never heard of, to the homicide police. The homicide police office was a bit sad, but the officers there were very nice, and said of course they could take the fingerprints. Hallelujah! Because Turkish officials are very thorough, they took digital scans, my mugshot, and all of my information, just like I was a real criminal. It was strange, and kind of sweet. Then the senior officer took me to a room that had terrible lighting and was covered in ink smudges and clearly hadn’t been used in a long time. He rolled my fingers in the ink, told me to relax, and quick as you please, it was done! Afterwards, my friend and I stayed for a glass of tea with the officers, because this is Turkey and that’s just what you do.

While I am looking forward to my next destination, as my time here grows shorter my heart grows heavier. I’ll be doing something completely ordinary, like riding the metro or shopping at the market, and I’ll suddenly be hit in the face with the reality that all of this is coming to an end.

It’s really the hardest when it comes to the Syrians I teach and volunteer with. How can I leave the Hasans, my dear friends who have become like family? How can I leave Nour, with her sharp wit and her kind mother who force-feeds me delicious food every time I visit? How can I leave the three Yazidi girls I teach English, who have learned so much and write my name with little hearts in their notebooks? Especially those girls. I knew that volunteering would enable me to impact others’ lives, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much my own life would be touched. I’m wrecked just thinking about it. It’s going to be hard to adjust to life without the beautiful people I’ve met here.

Before Korea though, we are going to do some much-needed travel that we’ve been planning for some time now. On Wednesday (so soon!) we fly to Berlin, a city I haven’t seen in over 9 years. From there, we’ll be spending a few days in Poland, then a few weeks in Ukraine with a detour into Moldova. Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that Eastern Europe is kinda my thing, and I couldn’t be happier at the prospect of romping around that part of the world.

After that, I will still have quite a bit of time before Korea, and I really don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing yet. Maybe some more travel in Europe, maybe a stint in the US to see friends and family – the future is really unclear, just as Turkey’s future is unclear. But even with all this uncertainty, I believe the future is still a bright one.

Good Luck and Happy Travels,

Mo