As you’ll have gathered from my (as-yet non-existent) post about my first time in Istanbul, I was not a fan. That’s despite the fact that on this particular trip, I didn’t get tear-gassed (post about that here). The constant hassling was just too much: every, single, guy, on the street. I mean, Turkey gets European and Russian tourists: you think they’d get over it. The way blonde women are presented to the non-Western world is as easy sluts, and honestly, it seemed like the Turkish guys thought that all they’d have to do was talk to me and I’d jump on them. Anyway!
While I wasn’t looking forward to returning to the Hellmouth (aka Canberra, the place where souls go to die), at least it would only be for 5 months before my next escape, to Russia (and we all know how that worked out). Either way, I was so keen to get out of Turkey that I wasn’t even dreading returning to the Real World as much as usual. However, it seemed Istanbul had an unrequited love for me, and wasn’t quite ready to let me go. At least, that’s how I’m interpreting it.
I miss a lot of flights. Also buses, trains, ferries—I’m just a little too casual about it all. So, given my transport-related history, I’d decided to be super-dooper early for my flight to Sydney: I was aiming to be at the airport four hours prior to my flight. I figured that then, after taking ‘Laura time’ into account, I’d still be there at least an hour before check-in closed: a stress-free start sounded nice, and given that I was due back at work a couple of days later (for once, I’d given myself more than 12 hours between arriving from Europe/ish and being back at work), I was determined not to miss the flight. Not that they weren’t used to my all-hours calls saying I was stuck in an airport somewhere and would be at work whenever I found a new plane..!
The night before the flight, I asked the guy at reception how to get to the airport, and how long it would take. The next morning, I set my alarm for an hour earlier than it needed to be, just so that I could go to reception again and double-check everything. I was dedicated, as you can see! The morning guy confirmed what the evening guy had said: it would take around an hour and a half to get there, and all I had to do was catch the tram til the end of the line, then catch the airport train from there. What could go wrong?
I, clutching my coat, thunked my bags down the stairs and set off for the tram line. At this point I had my day-pack, full of my laptop and a fairly outrageous number of textbooks I’d needed for my CELTA in Prague; and my beloved suitcase (whose twin I now own), with winter clothing, all of my snowboard gear (for when I was in Italy), and stacks and stacks of books in Russian (as they’re just about impossible to find in Australia). All up, it was around 45kg. Haha thanks to my multiply-broken back, I actually can’t carry more than about 8kg without pain—fail.
I get to the tram line, purchase my ticket: everything’s fine. I’ve studied the metro map over and over again, I know exactly which line I’m catching and exactly where the end of the line is; so I settle down to wait. However, weirdly, the tram doesn’t go to the end of the line. Rather, it reaches a stop called Zeytinburnu. I ummed and ahhed, but both guys at the hostel had said the end of the line, so I waited and got on the next tram continuing up the tram line.
A seemingly endless amount of time later, I arrived at my destination. I jumped out, looked around, and realised I was in the middle of approximately fucking nowhere. A little concerned at this point, I walked up to two tram guards by the ticket booth, and with me in English+Russian (Англусский) and them in Turkish+Russian (Trukish?), I asked them where the train to the airport was. I may or may not have mimed a plane taking off, to really make sure I got my point across. They looked at each other with akin expressions of bafflement, then pointed at the tram I’d just jumped off. “Hurry/быстро!!” they told me, helping me to jump the fence with my suitcase as they called out a station name, and I scrambled back aboard as the tram commenced its return journey.
So, there went my early start. The guards had told me that it would take me around half an hour back to where I needed to catch the airport train (freaking Zeytinburnu), then twenty minutes by train (every ten minutes) to the terminal. Which would put me there around twenty minutes after check-in had closed. (If you’re doing the math here by the way, and can’t figure out why I was suddenly so late, you’ve not factored in LT: Laura Time).
After about five minutes of hyperventilating and wondering how much a last-minute flight to Sydney would set me back, I got on the phone. Meanwhile, JFord, who’s not only my non-lesbian wife but also holds my power of attorney, was in the shower back in Australia. She got out to see a couple of missed calls from me, and remarked to her flat-mate Clair that “oh, Laura must have missed her flight.” She then called me back. How ridiculous in a way: she was in her nice, air-conditioned apartment in Canberra, while I was standing on the cramped and crowded tram in the middle of Turkey, with everybody staring at me as the obvious foreigner.
“JFord!” I said. “Fuck!!”
“Did you miss it yet?” she asked.
“No, but check-in’s about to close: could you log on as me and check me in? Or maybe call them?!”
We hang up, and Jess is freaking miraculous: she’s got one hand on her laptop, trying to check me in, and she has her phone in the other, calling her aunt who works for Emirates to see if I can get onto a stand-by flight or something. This is why. The last time I’d called her from a foreign country needing a flight, I was in Queenstown (NZ) and in complete hysterics: and she got me out in under 24 hours for less than $200, while I spent the time snowboarding and partying. Yup. Haha she has sheets with all of my credit cards, IDs and flight reward programs written down. She’s the absolute fucking best!
Anyway, enough faux-lesbian love, and back to Istanbul. I get back to Zeytinburnu, triple-confirm that this is the right stop, and jump on out. I don’t think I had any Turkish lira left, so I had to improvise my way through the gates and onto the train: something I accomplished just as the doors clicked closed.
Arriving at Atatürk airport, I started running. With, yes, 45kg of stuff. Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life as in the next few paragraphs: but I figured I’d never been paid $2k to run anywhere before (which is what I was figuring a new last-minute flight would set me back): so call me motivated. Of course, it was then a little awkward when I came to the slowest escalator in the world: I had to stand there patiently with my Epic amounts of stuff, while people who’d seen me running passed me on the stairs, bemused. Then to the top, and more running. I reached security, ran straight to the front of the line, and started stripping—because was I practically dressed? No. No, I was not. So it was coat off, belt off, boots off, things out of pocket, laptop out of bag, be scanned, get re-dressed, stuff my jigsaw-puzzle of a day-pack together, and start running again. To another freaking security check. Coat off, belt off, hopping around as I pull my laptop out of my bag and undo my boots at the same time, scan, repack, run. Except now I didn’t know where I was running to: where the hell was departures? (Then I wondered if thinking ‘where the hell’ was really advisable, when Allah was apparently already against me).
“Girl!” yelled a security guard, who’d obviously seen the kerfuffle that is me alternately running and stripping. “Go!” and he waved toward an elevator. “Thanks!” I called back, and ran for it. I decided that rather than slow down in time (quite the feat with the momentum my suitcase had), I’d just smack into the wall: exactly what I did. Happily, I managed to get the elevator button before bouncing off. I was way too high on adrenalin at this point and was jumping on the spot as I waited for the elevator: then I was inside. Cue soothing elevator music.
Finally, the departures hall, and more running. Haha everybody in the world must have heard me running along in my boots, and I swear that staff at every check-in counter looked up at me anxiously, wondering if it was them I was heading for. At last I saw the sign for Etihad, and skidded as I made an about-turn.
The gate was closed.
But do I take no for an answer?! No. So I ducked under the guides and walked up to a clerk who was still at her desk. “I’d like to check in,” I said calmly, trying to pretend like I hadn’t just run a few kilometres.
The lady just looked at me. Long pause. Pursed lips. “Passport, please,” she said. Boo freaking yah. Haha and not only did she let me check in, but she didn’t even charge me for excess baggage! Love it.
And that is how I do airports.
(Btw, the ‘featured image’ from this post is one of several a group of Asian kids sent me: I’m in hundreds of vaguely uncomfortable photos with strangers from all over the world who’ve asked to pose with me, and sometimes they forward them.)
Next, it was back to Australia for a few months to earn some cashish before starting my next adventure, in ze motherland.