Subtitle: Baby’s Move to Istanbul
Subtitle II: Hannah Becomes a Crazy Cat Lady
On August 6th, 2014, my dad put my suitcases into the car and drove me and my cat, Baby, to the airport. Now, a year later, I finally type up the memories:
Unlike the day I adopted Baby and drove her to my house or any time I took her to the vet, she was very quiet on the way to the airport. From day to day, she is a quiet cat, but it was like she knew crying in the car was not worth her energy this time.
Dad walked me into the airport and helped me check in.
Baby had to go through her own check-in. She buried her head in my elbow and we waited patiently, nearly scratch free, as her carrier was scanned by security.
When her carrier was ready, I set her back in gently and said good-bye. As my dad walked me to security, a cart passed with Baby in tow. “OOoooohhh! I hope she’s okay! She has a long journey ahead of her!”
Dad kissed me good-bye and sent me on my way. He tried to get one last picture of me entering security, but the guards told him it wasn’t allowed.
As we approached Turkey, storms were attacking Istanbul. When the pilot announced that we would be landing in Izmir, I thought I had misheard him. Sure enough, an hour later, I looked out the window and thought, “Now wait… I’ve been to Istanbul before… This does not look like Istanbul.” Once we arrived, we were not allowed to leave the plane. Leaving the plane would mean that we would have to go through passport control. We sat in Izmir for about an hour or two before the pilot received the all clear to return to Istanbul. Our detour added about four hours to the already long journey.
After landing, I picked up my tourist visa and entered passport control trouble free.
*Note: Now, if you plan to visit, you should purchase your tourist visa in advance online.*
With my clarinet bag over my shoulder, I collected my first blue suitcase, my red back pack, and then waited for my second blue suitcase and Baby… And waited… And waited some more until there were no more bags… At this point I felt TERRIBLE about checking Baby instead of carrying her on. I just didn’t want to be that person with the crying cat or the one seriously aggravating someone’s allergies. I didn’t care about either of those things anymore. She may be a bizarre little animal, but she is mine and I love her! It was a busy and expensive process to move her to Turkey with me and now all I could think about was that the airline lost my cat!
Due to all the rerouted planes, cancelled flights, and late arrivals, Ataturk Airport was spinning that night. I asked a security officer what to do about my lost bag and cat. He told me to exit the baggage claim area and report it in an office on the other side of the doors.
*Note: Always ask your question to multiple people before exiting baggage claim.*
As soon as I exited baggage claim, the principal of the secondary school was waiting for me with a sign that read my name. I was relieved. Since my arrival was hours behind schedule and I took much longer than expected to collect my belongings, I was a little afraid no one would be there waiting for me. Despite the delay, he was cheerful, as was the secretary and one of the ladies from the operations team assisting him that night. I explained that I was missing my cat and through the dizzying chaos, they managed to have me escorted back into baggage claim where I immediately found Baby and my bag side by side. Inhale, exhale… All was well.
Two other teachers, Elisabeth and Andy, arrived that night as well. Elisabeth arrived just before me and Andy just after me. I met Elisabeth first but I didn’t realize when she was first introduced to me as the other music teacher that she was a new hire, too. I thought she was part of the welcome party or had just returned from her summer vacation. She didn’t have much to say that night, but in all fairness, the airport was crowded, loud, and we were exhausted. Little did I know that she would become part of my family over the course of the year.
When the three of us were ready, we were given a new mobile phone and a Turkish SIM card. Elisabeth was then taken to her apartment in one van while Andy and I were taken to our apartments in another van. As we drove along the Bosphorus and Topkapi Palace, I was overwhelmed with joy. What an enchanting city!
We dropped off Andy first and went over new hire housekeeping matters together. It was after midnight when we arrived at my apartment. Maybe nearly one o’clock. My bags were carried upstairs for me and I immediately set up Baby’s litter box, food, and water. I held her for a minute and then set her down to explore her new home.
The operations team had already set up my internet and house phone, and purchased some starter groceries and basic kitchen items for me. My apartment was clean and my bed was made. I was amazed that the initial transition to Istanbul had gone so smoothly.
What struck me most was that the principal of the primary school came to my apartment at that late hour to welcome me with two kisses on my cheeks and a hug. I knew right away that the culture of teaching in an international school would be very different than that of teaching back in the States.
It was probably two in the morning before I had the apartment to myself. I unpacked my suitcases and settled into bed.
I can only hope that every international school makes that first night as comfortable for their new hires as this school made me feel.
Orientation, and disorientation, began the following morning.