How we love being foreign in Istanbul

It started for me, as it does for most people who are new in this megacity, three months into my initial entry into the country.And boy was there build up? Everyone had something to say, advice to give and none of it was positive. Needless to say left me feeling a little apprehensive. ‘You have to get up at like 4am to go over there and get a number. Then you have to wait…and wait…and more waiting.’ ‘When you finally get inside, you’ll get another number and have to wait more.’ AND ‘Nobody speaks English.’

Waiting again for the harrowing journey to the emniyet, dealing again with the challenges to achieveing the task of renewing my residency permit, İ feel a nostalgic remembrance. All the wonderful moments waiting in a crowded room. People on the floor and leaning against all the walls. Students playing cards, made up women and their sugar daddies, families with grouchy babies, everyone stressed, all refugees in a station waiting to go somewhere. When really we are all waiting so we can stay where we are. Something my fellow teachers and İ have nicknamed ‘hell’. A little piece of it in İstanbul.

And for the most memorable, let’s set the scene, in accordance with the song Summer in the city, it was July and the air felt like an unairconditioned gym. This at only 7:30. Picture a string of foreigners lined up against the emniyet wall guarded by a machine gun bearing officer, looks about 18. All up before sun rise. All impatient and anxious to get into the building with their precious number. Taken at 6 am with a mysterious man on a crumpled piece of paper ( who this man works for, who knows?) My friend and colleague, Kathy, is reading a book to pass the time, İ am fighting the urge to throw up. Early mornings pre-dawn mornings do not agree with my stomach. İ feel her bend towards me…to tell me something…but then she’s still going down toward the ground. A hero steps from the line to catch her. She’s pale and purple-tinged. Everyone suddenly becomes helpful. Russian women slapping her none-to-gently and splashes water in her face. The police seeing a crowd forming jump into action and call an ambulance. We end up in a public hospital for three hours. Still losing our numbers. This particular time took 4 tries to achieve the goal.

Now we again wait. İt is a waiting game. Checking to make our online appointment every hour or so. Waiting for their to be a free date. Wondering what to do. We are again waiting and stressing. Makes me think maybe they should make a t-shirt. İ survived the yabancı emniyet.

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