On my last day in Istanbul, I felt very quiet and contemplative. I mostly stayed in my room, going out only for breakfast and lunch. I packed my bags and tried to make sure that I didn’t leave anything. I watched CNN world news, checked and re-checked my email, and read a little. My computer and iPhone are the last items that will be packed. I am hoping I don’t forget either of the plugs, adaptors, etc. for each. I am almost certain that I will forget something, but am trying to be very, very careful. I irritatingly realize that CNN “loops” programs. There seems to be one set of programs, maybe 8-10, that are 30 minutes to one hour long, and they are basically replayed. The only thing that is fresh are the weather reports, and the list of world temperatures. There are many commercials for tourism, and to countries that are on the U.S. State Department’s “Travel Alert” list: Nigeria, Qatar, and several others. For the first time, I feel a little afraid to go to Saudi Arabia. It is Hajj, and my employer has warned me that the compound will be fairly empty. I am hoping that someone is there I can talk with. If not, I will busy myself with becoming aware of, and familiar with, my surroundings.
A part of me is reluctant to go. This has become my neighborhood. People from the different shops recognize and speak to me on the street. I have my favorite places to eat and shop. I have a park that I love to frequent and urban trails that take me to the hub of Old Istanbul. I have learned how to mentally convert dollars to Turkish lira. I know the coins. Turkey does not have one cent coins, so if a total is 4.99 or 3.97 the total is rounded up in favor of the vendor. Maybe the U.S. should get rid of the penny; but we are so stuck on money precision that I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.
I have almost become acclimated. I rarely break out in sweat after walking for 10 minutes, it now takes me 15 or 20 minutes to begin sweating. Autumn is approaching, and the weather is feeling more like Bay Area weather, with temperatures hovering around 65 degrees.
I have to say goodbye to my neighborhood and the hotel staff who have been so great to me.
I don’t know what I will face in Saudi Arabia, besides the heat. The adventure and the uncertainty begins again.