Wednesday, 5 January 2011

One Night in Turkey

Oh the adventures in following Him!
As I write this I am sitting by some airport windows looking out over a vista of a massive Turkish city which is reminding me, strangely, perhaps, of being in Bucharest, Romania again.

I have to admit, one of my biggest worries about going to Uganda has been the getting there. My travel agency was rubbish and has been nothing but trouble since I booked in October. They routed me through Istanbul, which is fine, except they booked me going in to one airport and out from another, without enough time in between on the way back to actually make it to my connecting flight! Then they refused to do anything about it… Grrrrr. Again and again when I told people I was going through Turkey, I was warned not to leave the airport on my own, as if I had any choice!

So when I arrived in Istanbul this evening, I was wary, but relieved when I was able to pass through customs smoothly, praying frantically that my debit card would miraculously work here to draw out money for the entry visa when it didn’t work just hours before in England (and it did, of course :)), then out to the buses where a kindly bus driver directed me to the bus going to the city centre where I would get the next bus out to the other airport. Everything went so smoothly, I could hardly believe it after anticipating such a headache!

Traffic in Turkey is crazy, though. Istanbul is a city of 20 million people! So the bus arrived later than I hoped and I worried that the next bus might also arrive later than I hoped and I’d be late to check-in for my flight. So when we were greeted off the bus by smiley taxi drivers asking, “Taxi? Taxi? Where you going?”, I was tempted and inquired about how much it would be and how long it would take. I had exactly 50 TL (Turkish Lire) in my purse so if it was any more than that, I would have to gamble with the bus. The taxi driver I spoke to was a jolly character. He explained in broken English and gestures that the meter would say 45 or 46TL but that he would agree to drive me for 40TL. I thought, “Oh! How kind is he?” but perhaps should have been wary of such generosity—I am learning!

“You want Chai, Lady?” he knocked on my window and asked after he’d closed my door behind me. I happily took a cup of Turkish chai tea from the taxi station and we set off through the dark-of-night Istanbul streets, crazy with traffic and alive with the sounds of beeping car horns. I reveled in the excitement of passing through somewhere I’d never been. Even being in a taxi was rather new and exciting as I so very rarely take one. We zipped under what looked like an ancient aquaduct spanning the city, and many times passed by the remainders of the massive, crumbling city wall rising up formidably in the night. There were numerous elaborate mosques situated across the skyline and all lit up, including the Hagia Sofia, which my driver pointed out to me across the water. As we hurried along the highway, I prayed thanks for how smoothly it was all going despite my worries, and I prayed over the life of this jolly, kind taxi driver and the lives of his loved ones. I’d already decided that though we agreed on a fare of 40TL, I was going to give him my 50TL and let him keep the change. He was so kind and jolly and put me at ease.

When we arrived at the airport and it came time to pay him, he reached into his pocket the same time as I pulled out my purse. I handed him my 50TL with a thank you, and moments later he held up the note I thought I had just handed him, showing it to be only 5TL! I frantically thought, “Oh no! I thought I had 50TL in here!” and dug back through my purse, expecting that I’d just drawn out the wrong note, but reminding myself as I frantically searched that I had only had the one note left after paying for the visa and the bus, and it was a 50TL note. He continued to show me that it was only 5 and gesture that it needed to be 5-0. It took me a few moments to catch on to the fact that I was being swindled. I said, “I already gave you 50. 5-0. I gave you 5-0.” But I felt confused about it and wondered if there was some way that I had made a mistake and now I had no way to properly pay the guy. But he soon seemed to repent of his game, said okay, and drew out 10TL to give me my change as if I HAD given him 50. Grrr. But I was still so flustered, that I didn’t take the change! Silly girl. I just said, “I gave you 5-0,” as if convincing myself. He shook my hand at the end, smiling and saying/gesturing again that we had agreed on 40 but I’d given him 50 – oh yes, he knew every well what he was doing! After I hurried away, feeling kind of stunned at being so swindled when I was feeling so safe, I recalled that that is exactly what I had read accounts of when I had researched my travel through Turkey before going. And it made me mad! And insecure.

So when I came to check-in for my flight (in good time, at least!) I was rather unexcited to find that the check-in attendant didn’t seem to know what he was doing. He took the longest time looking my details up, then had to call someone over to help, the two of them talking amongst themselves in Turkish and telling me nothing about what was going on. Finally, they told me my flight had been delayed, though gave me no explanation, and said to come back in 2 hours.

Meanwhile, on the bus I had gotten a call out of the blue from the rubbish travel agency telling me that Turkish Airlines had canceled my return flight home in March and to go and speak to their ticketing office when I got to the airport! So… next stop was the ticket office, where I was able to get transferred to a different flight for my return home in March. It was a gift from God because the new flight does not entail an airport switch to get to the connection like this one going out did! I arrive back at London Heathrow at 3:15pm on March 27th! Ooh, I miss my England already :)

They were also able to explain to me that my current flight had also been canceled (have no idea what’s up with all the cancelations!) and the new flight wouldn’t leave until 6:35pm the next day! Arriving in the middle of the night a day after I was meant to arrive… But within moments they were directing me to someone else, who directed me to someone else and so on, until I was being shuttled away to a hotel stay compliments of the airline! One night in Turkey :) What an adventure He is! As we drove along the dark highway again, I saw a huge, fancy tower with a sign saying The Courtyard Marriott and chuckled to myself thinking sardonically, “wouldn’t it be funny if they put me up someplace like that?”

And then we pulled in next to the entrance :)
God’s sense of humour never ceases to crack me up :)

So, I spent one night in Turkey in my own room in a lush hotel, with continental breakfast and lunch at a gorgeous Mediterranean-style restaurant in the hotel and provided compliments of Turkish Airlines. I had a bubble bath my last morning before Africa, and simply luxuriated in this unexpected treat of one night in a posh hotel in Turkey with my God! Unbelievable :)

And now the real adventure begins, a day late, but just in His time… I will be landing in Uganda just after 2am and finding my way to Gabi’s an hour from the airport—another taxi experience, I’m afraid! But here we go…

Thank you so so so much more than I can say for all your prayers!!!
May you know this love; may you love this Lover!

Sending love from Turkey!

1 comment:

Mom said... wonder I was praying for you without ceasing. If I wasn't praying I was talking about you. So looking forward to reading your next adventure that I prayed through.

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