When I am in the USA Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It has the family and culinary focuses of Christmas, but, if you turn a blind eye to Black Friday, much less of the commercial hype, and, unlike Christmas, it is not preceded by a full month of songs I’ve been hearing over and over all my life.
However, this year, of course, I was in Turkey for Thanksgiving. Specifically I was in Istanbul. I came here at the beginning of the week to pick up my residence permit. I only needed to stay for a few days, but I stayed a little longer so I could meet up with an American friend of mine, Jeremy, who was also here in Istanbul. We had planned to meet up on the road down south, but since we were both going to be in Istanbul this week, we decided to meet up here instead.
I haven’t seen Jeremy since 2009. We spent most of the day hanging out at the Starbucks at the Kanyon mall. Jeremy is one of those guys I can talk to for most of the day and then wonder where the time has gone, there is so much left to talk about. To be able to spend Thanksgiving with a great guy like Jeremy is, well, something I am very, very thankful for. At Starbucks we were also visited by our mutual friends Volkan and Deniz, both of whom we hadn’t seen in a while, and both of whom looked great. It’s amazing what the years have done to so many of the people we know. I swear they’re getting younger.
After a while Jeremy had to go pick up his daughter on the other side of town, and I needed a change of scenery. I moved to a nearby restaurant, where I ate a late lunch and took up space for a few hours drinking only god knows how many cups of tea and catching up on some writing.
After loitering at the restaurant I headed “home” to Ali’s apartment. Ali is a good friend of mine whose apartment I am staying at this week. His is a bachelor pad’s bachelor pad, with a refrigerator containing more Diet Coke and condiments than real food, and a living room with lots of empty beer cans and full ashtrays. In other words, a place where I can feel right at home watching endless West Wing reruns and sitting around in my undershirt.
I had been planning to, the day after Thanksgiving, hop a bus back to Karaman and resume the walk Saturday morning, but two nights ago my cell phone stopped working. The phone is one of my “go to” tech tools on the road, the other being my camera, so it stopping working is a significant event that needs to be addressed.
Turkey is not a friendly environment into which to bring a foreign-bought cell phone (I bought mine in the US). There’s a grace period of a week or so when tourists can use their foreign-bought cell phones, but then the phones are disconnected and they need to be registered with the government. The SIM card is not cut off, the actual phone itself, the hardware, is what’s cut off.
I did the registration months ago when I first arrived in Turkey, but my registration expired the other day. Some registrations have been known to last forever, other registrations only a few months. Mine lasted three. My iPhone is now, in Turkey at least, just a really expensive brick. I tried to reregister it today, but was told a different thing by every shop I went into. What all of the advice had in common, though, was, “It would be a lot easier if you just got yourself a new cell phone here in Turkey,” which I know from experience to be true. So in the next day or so I’m going to try to do that without breaking the bank.
By the way, it’s really easy to get into Turkey — show up at the border, slap down a few bucks, and you’re in. It’s not an easy place to stay though. Trying to stay in Turkey more than a few months is like submitting yourself to Chinese water torture. Drip, drip, drip on your forehead, no one drop that big a problem, but cumulatively the drops drive you insane, or at least try your patience.
I managed the USA green card process for my ex-wife, a Turk, so I know the headaches are much larger trying to go the other way. But whichever way one is trying to go, dealing with government regulations is rarely fun.
So anyway, I spent part of Thanksgiving and most of the following day dealing with the cell phone issue. It’s not resolved yet, but I want to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible. I have work to do (walking across the country), and as much as I like visiting friends here in Istanbul, every moment I spend in this city is a moment I don’t spend doing what I’m in Turkey to do. I suppose I should be thankful for something, what with this being Thanksgiving season and all, but I’m also getting pretty antsy, pretty eager to get back to work. I’ve been away from the road for a week, and it’s starting to seem like forever.