Home again: Feeling local in Izmir
“To the owner of a black backpack left unattended, please come and pick it up at Terminal C.” As I hear the announcement by loudspeaker, I hold in for a second. Am I myself not in Terminal C? Yes, I am. I turn around and there it is. At just about a ten metre distance. With all the latest news about bombings at airports, my heart starts beating just that little bit faster. Oh no, let this just be a false alarm. I fix the unattended piece of luggage. Who could have just forgotten it there? What if this is a serious threat? The police officer guarding it seems a little nervous, too. His face is red and he keeps walking to the left, then to the right of the backpack, looking around as if he were searching for the owner.
I could just leave the building and go home. But I’ve already checked in my suitcase. And I’m about to pass the security control. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going. My family keeps messaging me. Take good care of yourself. And please return. I put my belongings into a plastic container: the jacket, the scarf, my red backpack, the computer. Then I take off my boots and off I go through to the other side. The unattended black backpack is suddenly out of sight. Someone might have finally picked it up. That’s it. I’m ready to go.
I put on some duty free perfume, get myself some water and a snack for the flight and have a seat waiting to board the plane. My phone rings. I don’t answer. I’m leaving reality for just some time. I’m ready to go.
Boarding starts. I closely watch the people waiting in line. Many families with kids, some elderly people, two teenage boys… As I board the plane my heart beats and beats and beats. Seat 4C. That’s at the isle. I smile as I remember the mission I recently completed. I’m ready to go.
I hope for a nice neighbour to have a chat with during the flight. The guy right next to me isn’t the friendliest person, though. I think of my friend Romina who tries to educate Germans in terms of friendliness by being friendly herself. I try my best but this guy just won’t react to my smiles and gestures. So I leave it and get to my snack. Then I read for a while and I have a nap. As I wake up, the sun is already setting and the plane is starting its descent. It’s not long before I see the beautiful bay and the lights of the city I love so much.
I still can’t believe it. As the plane touches ground, the crowd starts clapping. My legs are a little shaky. I leave the plane and walk straight up to the passport control. The officer smiles as I wish him a nice evening. He didn’t expect me to speak his language. We start chatting and he asks me why I left in the first place. Then he welcomes me to his country once again and wishes me a nice time with my friends.
I wait for my purple suitcase, the one I bought a little over two and a half years ago in this very city. Then I walk out into the warm autumn night. The air has that familiar smell of sea side and simit to it. I breathe it in deeply. I can’t stop smiling as I make my way to the Izban which is the local means of transportation, like the S-Bahn in Berlin. My metro card is still working. There even is some balance left so I can use it right away. As I want to get on the train, I notice the doors open automatically. I remember this is normal here. A few people get up to offer me a seat. This is normal here as well. The announcements of the next stations seem so familiar. It feels like travelling back in time. At Hilal station I change trains and take the metro. I notice the metro line has been extended. I get off at Poligon station, which is new for me. The last time I was in this area, this bit of the metro line was still under construction.
As I wait for Merve, my former flat mate and dear friend, I take off my winter coat. I won’t need it over here. They say winter has come but winter in Izmir isn’t comparable to winter in Berlin. It’s 8pm and the air is still quite warm at about 17 °C. I have a look around. The shops are still open and their lights shine bright on the street. There are some cats and dogs walking around. A little boy is teasing his sister who is offering a biscuit to one of the cats. Then she takes a bite herself. I’m in my own little bubble and just hear them fighting in the distance. The little girl starts crying and is comforted by a man, probably her father or an uncle. Then the little boy suddenly bites the hood of my jacket, which I’m holding in my hands. I look at the man who barely scolds him. Then I remember kids are kind of sacred over here and barely yelled at. I kindly tell the boy to stop it and he smiles and walks off. I look at the saliva marks on my hood, wipe them off with a tissue, then shrug.
Finally, I spot Merve in the distance. She has lost a lot of weight but her walk is still the same. I can’t believe my eyes as she comes closer. She seems happy, too. We finally hug, over and over again. Welcome back! Don’t you ever leave again, she says. Oh I won’t, I’ll simply stay.
After 31 months of absence, it feels as if I’d never left. It’s a deep feeling of belonging that connects me to Izmir. This is where I feel local. This is the place my heart feels at home.
For other interpretations of Local have a look here.