Reverse culture shock
I take a deep breath before boarding the plane. The sun caresses my face. I’m holding a plastic bag that contains my coat. I look around one last time: Lots of planes and the cozy terminal of Izmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport just a few hundred metres away. I’ve been in that building so many times in the course of the last one and a half years, either to pick up loved ones who came to visit me or on my travels to Germany and back. This time I’m leaving for good.
I make my way to seat number 9F. That’s at the window, yay! The seat right next to me remains empty. An amca (older man or uncle) with a belly is sitting at the third seat of the row. He gives me a friendly nod as I greet him.
Soon after take-off, I recognize several parts of the city such as Kordon where I used to take long walks, the harbor which reminds me of my internship and Bostanlı where they sell some delicious chicken dishes. I can’t take my eyes off the window and I’m amazed by the beautiful sunny day and the turquoise sea.
Soon the amca starts pulling out some simits (typical circular breads with sesame seeds on them). He offers me one and I happily take it. I love Turks! They’re always willing to share their food.
After our snack, the amca shows me the diamond rings he got for his brides: The golden one for his favourite, the silver one for the other one. I don’t ask any details.
I’m still fascinated by the landscape. As there’s no single cloud out there, I can easily follow our trajectory. We should have left Greek airspace by now.
When I wake up from my nap, things have considerably changed. The pilot tells us we’re about to land at Berlin Tegel Airport. This is what I see:
After landing, it starts raining. I look at the amca and all he says is: “Thank God I’m just staying a week.” That’s the moment I start crying. This can’t be real.
I put on my scarf, my coat and follow the other passengers out of the plane and into the bus that will take us to the terminal. When I get in, the bus driver is already yelling at everyone because he wants the whole crowd to move towards the front part of the bus. I have to swallow. After the bus starts moving, a man shouts that he needs to get off to fetch his passport that he forgot in the plane. Everyone starts saying stop, stop in Turkish but the driver doesn’t understand. I want to speak up but I just can’t. I feel paralyzed. The bus finally stops and lets the man out. As soon as we’re back in motion, we all see a mother holding her baby and shielding it from the rain, trying to make it to the bus. “There’s a woman with a child, stop!”, they all shout out. The bus doesn’t stop. And again I’m in tears. Take me back to Turkey right now!
The man at the border entry control doesn’t say a word as I hand him my passport. No smile, no “Welcome back!”. I miss that nice Turkish guy who chatted with me for a few minutes before placing a stamp in my passport and wishing me a good flight, back when I was in paradise.
I wait for my luggage. When a German tourist sees me with those three suitcases, he smiles and says: “Looks like you were away for a while.” I nod and smile back: “One and a half years.” “That indeed is a long time. Welcome back!”, he says and I start feeling better.
I make my way to the exit, carefully pushing my suitcase pile. My dear friend is waiting in the first line, waving and smiling from ear to ear. That’s when I know everything will be just fine.