“Stories happen only to those who are able to tell them, someone once said. In the same way, perhaps, experiences present themselves only to those who are able to have them.” Paul Auster, The Locked Room.
After spending the first three weeks of July on the bustling west coast, I spent a week recovering from how extroverted I had been in California. My days mostly consisted of binge-watching crime tv shows in my Airbnb near Chicago. Some days I’d go out for breakfast first, other days I'd skip breakfast in favor of watching the series and then indulge in having a 14-inch cheese pizza accompanied by a couple of beers at a local pub in the late afternoons.
I made a quick back and forth road trip from Chicago to Rolla to get my suitcases and ended up waiting for the Turkish Airlines check-in counter to open at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. While I waited for my flight at ORD, I devoted most of my time to studying people, wondering when next I would find myself in such diverse surroundings.
When I finally boarded, I found myself in the middle row of a 3-3-3 configuration. My first neighbor arrived for seat number D while I was fastening my belt. “Oh, so you are seat G,” was the opening line of our small talk. “I am,” I answered. “Yesterday, when I was checking in, your seat was empty. So you didn’t make an online check-in,” she continued. “I didn’t,” I replied back. She had just asked me my reason for being in the US and stated her hope that the middle seat would stay empty when our final neighbor arrived. “Sorry, I wish it was empty, but obviously you have me” he joined our conversation. The 9-hour-long flight from Chicago to İstanbul did not continue in this fashion though. I watched three movies (The Last Bus by Gillies MacKinnon is highly recommended), while the guy in the middle listened to music feeling the vibes and shaking his head to the rhythm, and the woman mostly slept with her face mask just covering her mouth.
Just after I stepped foot at the unnecessarily huge İstanbul Airport on a Saturday morning, I immediately found myself shocked to hear everybody speaking in my native language. I should have realized this was due to jetlag, but in that moment hearing my mother tongue made no sense, as in my mind I was still expecting to hear English. İstanbul was not my final destination, though. I had to transfer to a domestic flight and make my way to Adana where I greeted my parents and hopped in my father’s car to head over to a salon for a mani-pedi and hair coloring appointment. After my beauty transformation was over, we were finally ready for the final leg of my journey which took me to my home town Mersin. (Dear mum and dad, please accept my apologies for keeping you waiting while I was busy turning from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.)
The new week started with a lot to deal with. Still suffering from jetlag, I had to take care of some paperwork regarding my recently finished TÜBİTAK project, go out shopping with my mom to run some errands for my younger brother’s upcoming wedding ceremony, make some corrections on manuscripts that were recently accepted for publication, and pick up the threads of our weekly meetings with Professor K. from Mexico. Fortunately, I balanced my circadian rhythm in five days and turned the jetlag crisis into an opportunity by quitting a twenty+ year old bad habit; drinking black coffee with no sugar on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. #feelingproud
After one week in Mersin, my parents and I hit the road to our summer house in my father’s hometown, Anamur. During my time there I treasured every moment I spent with my parents and enjoyed the feeling of familiarity from having spent at least one week there every summer holiday since a very young age. While I was technically on holiday, I nonetheless spent my time working on a new problem that I am trying to solve (#godhelpme), I also carried on with my Wednesday Google Meets with Professor K. (#feelingbeyondgrateful), never skipped my Cambly lessons with Liz (#beyondhappytohaveher), prepared lecture presentations for a five-day Erasmus visit to Bosnia&Herzegovina (#lookingforwardto), and initiated some application processes for some possible new adventures (#fingerscrossed).
The United States part of my life is over for now. I appreciate every second I spent there, every person I met, every difficulty I dealt with, and every lesson I learned. However, I have a feeling that the story hasn’t entirely ended yet. It never really ends, does it? It sometimes needs a break before turning into a new story.
August 2022, Mersin.
* Turkey will be known as Türkiye at the United Nations as part of a rebranding campaign launched by the Turkish president late last year since "Türkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people's culture, civilization, and values." Among the reasons for the image rebrand was the association with the bird traditionally associated with Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving. Many social media users refer to this fact to criticize the Turkish government's move as absurd, while others agree that it was a necessary rebranding. We have to wait and see if people around the world will accept Türkiye instead of Turkey (English), Turquie (French), or Twrci (Welsh).
Wertheimer, Tiffany. "Turkey wants to be called Türkiye in branding move." BBC News, 2 June 2022.