The morning after I arrived in Turkey, I had an appointment at the bank to set up my acconts. I was told to be at the bank at 9am. Being that I had only arrived late the prior night, I didn’t know how long it took to get anywhere. I looked up the bank on Google Maps and saw that it wasn’t that far away, but I still allowed myself far too much time. I spent about half an hour waiting outside in the humidity looking for people who MIGHT appear to be as confused as myself.
We were instructed to make sure that our new phones were charged as we would need them during our appointment. Charged I was… But when it was just about my turn to sign my name and initial all the places on 47 plus pages, I noticed my phone had turned off in my purse. I turned it back on and realized I needed a PIN… Which was on the card I left in my apartment.
I went dashing back to Cihangir only to find that I had no idea where I lived. I knew the street name but I didn’t see signs anywhere (literally didn’t notice the street sign until months later) and I hadn’t taken enough time to observe my surrounding landmarks. I went back and forth between a parking lot next to Andy’s building (a fellow new teacher) and an area that I knew was too far down the hill. I found my apartment and the card that identified the sacred PIN. It felt like ages, but I was bet I was gone from the bank no longer than thirty minutes.
Our orientation throughout the next few weeks was filled with all the essential school meetings, but also with fun activities such as a BBQ, trip to IKEA, a city tour, a scavenger hunt called the Byzan-Team Challenge, and a team building day in the Belgrade Forest where I shot a BB gun for the first time. My favorite part of this was during the Byzan-Team Challenge, we were challenged to record ourselves singing the first line or two of a Turkish song. A member of our group was Turkish, so he started to teach us the Uskudar song. An older man heard us singing, so he came over, taught us more, and joined us for the recording. At the end of our challenge, we got a team member’s son some Turkish ice cream. The ice cream guys LOVE to play tricks on the tourists, especially the children, with the sticky ice cream. Check it out on YouTube. We ended the day with sandwiches in the park and a crash course in Turkish language skills.
We had to have our game face on six days a week for three weeks before school had even started. Throughout all of this adventure, I was also bombarded by culture shock that had much more to do with stress than with the culture itself, which I’ve come to learn is completely normal.