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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Incoming Trip

          I first set foot on Turkish concrete in the evening of September 23, 2010. I had just traveled via British Airways for about fifteen hours, not including the time difference that pushed me seven hours into the "future." It was the longest trip I had ever taken in my life, and by the time I arrived, I had achy legs from having to squeeze between cramped seats, my tummy was upset because the ride was often bumpy and the food was no good, and my mind was ready to go into standby mode - I had been too nervous to get even a quick wink of sleep. But this trip was the start of new experiences, new culture, new friends, new food, new everything! So as our plane bobbed along above the clouds, I managed to convince myself that my discomfort was all for a good cause, a fun experience, a future that would just have to be great, no matter what would be waiting for me when I arrived. I was ready and excited for a new life, right? Evet, I told myself. Correct! 
          My trip actually began long before those desolate hours of bantering with myself during the flight(s). I do not remember the exact day, but sometime in early March when I was still busy studying at Wilson College, I decided that it was time for me to do something new. I needed a "break," or a challenge, or some combination of both. Home, family, friends, pretty landscapes - the constants in my life (and there was not much else) - held little value for me, and I was sure that was no good. I was sliding into a rut of sleepless nights, and foggy days where I had little energy or enthusiasm. I now realize that I was becoming depressed. Not just the kind of momentary low that can happen to the best of us occasionally, but the real sort of clinical depression. The symptoms were all there - low energy, little sleep, constant eating, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, negativity, particularly towards myself, etc.  It was no fun, and I shed a lot of unnecessary tears throughout March, and the following few months.  
          Sometime before my suicidal period over the summer, I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to take a year off and then transfer to a different college. Laura, a fantastic friend of mine, suggested that I go abroad somewhere as an Au Pair.  I figured it was not a bad idea; I could take care of a few kids, maybe travel a little...  so I created  a profile page on the website that she had suggested. It was called, and its purpose was to connect families and potential Au Pairs. I ended up doing all that I could to make my online image on the site as real and interesting as possible, for suddenly, I had so many options for an exciting new future, represented by little notes of interest in my inbox from people all over the world! Now I had more than just Livvey, my family, and friends to live for.  I became obsessed with checking for new requests at least twice every day.  A few I considered seriously; one was from a little family in Greece, another came from a very busy single Mom with two adorable girls who lived on the coast of Spain, and one was from a young family  developing raw food trade routes in Thailand. The Thai couple was expecting a second child in October, and were looking for someone to help them with their adorable little two year-old girl.  
          After the disappointing email of rejection from the family in Thailand - the nanny who was competing with me for their Au Pair position apparently already had plenty of experience with the whole raw-food-only business - Huma, from Istanbul, Turkey contacted me.  She had a whole program already going, called Au Pair in Turkey, where she matched families, particularly from the Istanbul area, as well as possible with incoming Au Pairs.  However, she was choosing me to go to her family, and since everything sounded really nice, exciting, and new, I decided to accept her contract.  
My last view of Philly from the ground.
          It was remarkable how everything then began to fall into place - I found a wonderful new home for Livvey with a lady named Bonnie at Copper Kettle Farm, I completed me exit interviews with Wilson, my "jobs" all came to an end, and I got a chance to say goodbye to everyone else as they headed back to college or work that they had found, like me, far away from home.  Yet it all seemed so unreal somehow.  I felt like I was just playing pretend, creating a fantastical future to replace my boring reality.  But fantasy soon became reality, when suddenly I had just two days left to transport Livvey, pack, apply to colleges (one thing I did not get around to doing before I left), and more! Then there was no time left, and I was tossing my remaining belongings into a couple of suitcases, and hopping into the car with Dad to catch a plane that would carry me away to my new life in a land far, far away. 
          It was all so perfect, except that  there was one little glitch;  Huma's current Au Pair had apparently decided to stay on for another year, and I was therefore not needed by the Erkan family.  Instead, I was given the option to join Yeshim Esmer, her husband Engin, and their two little girls called Naz and Rana.  I had about 1 1/2 weeks until my flight to decide, but it all sounded like a great opportunity from Huma, so I agreed to make the family switch.  I only got a chance to speak directly to Yeshim once before leaving.  The whole process ended up being very quick, and a bit confusing to me, but once I realized the mistake(s)I had made, it was too late - by then I was flying high somewhere over the Atlantic in the dark, with a phone that got no signal, and a computer with no battery life, its charging cable still sitting at home in the office ( one of two important items I had forgotten, the other being my retainer).   
           I arrived in Istanbul around 16 o'clock on the 23rd of September after travelling for nearly 24 hours (if you included the time change, and the car ride to the Philadelphia airport).  My luggage included two matching suitcases that I had purchased earlier in the week from Kmart, and my guitar and purse as hand baggage. My flight route was from Philly to Heathrow, where I had a four hour overlay.  Then from London I flew straight to Istanbul, also via British Airways.  
          While I was hanging around in Heathrow, I met a girl who had also been on my first flight, and who was waiting for a transfer trip to Germany.  We ended up talking a lot about where she was just coming from, and where I was headed. Anna had just been in the states for 6 months as an Au Pair for a family who apparently lived about twenty minutes by car from my home, but now she was going back home to study.  I told her my hopes and plans as a potential Au Pair in Turkey, and she kindly gave me a few words of advise before we parted ways to our separate flights.  
Flying high through a gorgeous sky
          My first plane ride from Philadelphia had been a bumpy one due to some rough weather that we had, but the sky was completely clear as I headed out the second time, allowing for an excellent take-off as we soured up and over London.  The pilot gave his introduction in beautiful British English.  I settled down, and was just getting really comfortable when a translation of his little speech began in what I'm guessing was the Turkish language.  I froze in horror!  One night before I left, Alice had read a few Turkish poems to me, and I had found them very interesting and pleasant to hear.  But these sounds were something altogether different. This was like a blurred combination of Chinese and Swiss, and I could make absolutely no sense of it.  OH MY GOD! There was no way I could learn a language like this just by waltzing in completely on my own with my plain American background, comfy clothes, untidy hair, and by now probably very bad breath.  I was doomed...!  At least the family I was going to could speak English, if what Huma had told me was true.  But how was I going to buy new clothes, understand directions, or even just send off a some postcards? Shakily, I pulled out the tattered dictionary that Alice had kindly passed on to me, and began to study.  
          After a couple of hours I developed some serious indigestion which only helped to make me and the folks sitting round my location more uncomfortable.  I swear the lady next to me could feel my body stiffen every few minutes, a warning sign marking the stench that I released without fail, a few seconds later.  I don't think I will ever set foot on a plane again with an unhappy stomach. 
          None too soon, we touched down smoothly at the International Airport of Istanbul. I was ever so thankful to discover that all of the signs were written in Turkish and English, so navigating to my luggage, through security, and to a bathroom was no trouble at all.  Then after waiting in a very long line for a tourist visa, which required only my passport, $20.00, and about 2 seconds, my time in Turkey began!

           Evet;  Yes

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Hello! So far, I have been in Turkey for about three weeks and have already been recording articles for this blog in a notebook.  My experiences thus far have made me realize that to others, what I end up writing may seem pretty intense, and maybe even a bit inappropriate for general public viewing. However, I hope to record my life here truthfully and in detail, so I ask all potential readers to refrain from discussing what they read with others. 
This blog will simply be a narration of my thoughts, feelings, and activities that carry me through my year touring Turkey, and I am posting it all for you so that hopefully, you can explore the journey that I will be taking as if you were here, travelling with me! However, since some of it may be a bit personal, and even sometimes a little disturbing, I ask that you please keep what you read to yourself when prudent to do so, and please, if anything that I write seems offensive to you, just contact me directly at  
I hope you will all enjoy my story. Thank you, and happy reading!