My next 30 days in Istanbul were a whirlwind and roller coaster ride of uncertainty. I wasn’t certain if I would be going on to Riyadh, or if I would be going home. And, if I went to Riyadh, when would I go? Was my employer serious? Was my employer real? Was this just a fluke, or were people being routinely stranded a standard practice?
Part of me felt that I would definitely be going to Riyadh, but when? That was the real question.
The academy put me up in a questionable, but mostly clean, hotel. I was able to communicate with some of the hotel staff at the front desk, and one of the housekeepers made a sincere, and consistent effort to communicate with me. It was difficult trying to communicate, particularly since I had not planned on an extended stay in Istanbul. I soon discovered that the Turkish people speak only, mostly … Turkish. Some speak a little Arabic. Almost none speak English. My prior game playing of Charades suddenly became very relevant.
I emailed the Academy almost on a daily basis. When would I get my new visa? When was I leaving Istanbul? When was I arriving in Riyadh? According to the Academy, they had to deal with red tape in securing a new visa for me, so my wait would be at least one week.
One week turned into two weeks, and I finally got a visa package from the Academy. But, there was a catch: I had to go to visa processing station in Istanbul, and then to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to complete the process. How do I get to the consulate and exactly where is it located? Well, the hotel staff “helped” me with that one. I had to make a total of three trips to the consulate via taxi, the metro, and a short walk. Each day the taxi from my hotel to the metro was a different price. Of course, that was with the “help” of the hotel staff who only saw an American, and all Americans have money … right?
With a lot of sweat, prayer, good luck and a hamburger with the fries included inside the hamburger bun, I made it to the Saudi consulate and got my visa processed. It had been almost 30 days, and I had seen more of Turkey than I’d never imagined I’d see.
My youngest daughter put it in better perspective for me. She pointed out that I didn’t know anyone who had lived in Istanbul for a month. Now I did.
I was on my way to Riyadh, and to work.