I came to Istanbul in a desperate attempt to escape Prague, telling myself that even if I hated it, I had nothing to lose.
As it turned out, I didn’t hate it. I loved it! It’s probably one of the coolest, most interesting and beautiful cities I’ve ever been in.
However, to quote the cheerful straw-hatted dude from Taiwan who prevented me from committing murder at a police station this morning: Turkey is a fantastic country to travel to and be a tourist in. Not to live in.
I have never felt so consistently stressed and worried in my life. Every morning, I wake up with a sudden jump, a dozen worries flooding my mind all at once. It’s exhausting. I’ve had a headache for the past 5 days, which I’m fairly certain is caused by worry and is going to make my head explode before very much longer.
Everything is difficult here, as I mentioned before during the whole Impossible Phone Registration saga. Nothing is easy. Simple things like paying my electricity bill or my rent are huge, complicated procedures packed full of setbacks and frustrating bureaucratic hindrances.
I am tired. I don’t have the energy for this any more.
I want to go home.
However, even that is going to cost me money. My 90-day visa will expire soon, even though I have done everything required of me to get a residence permit. I made the appointment as soon as I got a job. I waited a month for the appointment date, and went along with all the necessary paperwork only to be told after several hours of faffing around that I would have to go to a different police station because of my address. That meant a new appointment, another month of waiting, and an even more weary me showing up this morning at a police station in the middle of nowhere.
My translator, a guy from the employment agency, failed to show up. Obviously I had no way of contacting him (since I never managed to register my phone in the end, and the one I ended up buying turned out to be a dud sold to the stupid foreigner.) I dithered for a while and then decided to brave it on my own, with my very limited Turkish and a heightened sense of I really don’t give a shit any more. After all, I had my completed form, my passport, my money, my photos, my documents, and my photocopies. Surely it would be enough just to give those all to the person at the counter, and say what I wanted?
You would think.
So anyway, as I was just about to punch a police officer in the face, a friendly Taiwanese guy stepped up from further back in the queue. I speak some Turkish, he said with a smile. Can I help you?
And help me he did, from translation to taking me out to a random little corner shop where a surly-looking fellow with a computer made an adjustment to my form and printed it out for 10 liras.
Of course, it was all in vain, which honestly didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I can extend your visa for three months, said the woman, but it will take three months. This made precisely zero sense to me at first, but I eventually understood that it would take three months to process the document I would need to present at the airport upon my departure. As I intend to leave as soon as my contract finishes at the end of June, however, this is completely useless. Can’t you give me a document to show them to prove I’ve paid to extend my visa? I asked, the vein in my forehead threatening to pop. No, she said flatly.
So my choices are (a) stay here until mid-summer, in a non-air-conditioned flat, with no job, waiting for the document that will let me leave the country, or (b) leave the country at the end of June as planned and pay an extortionate fine for over-staying my visa, despite the fact that I have done everything (and more than) they asked me to do and have done my best to purchase the required residency permit.
I give up. I’ll leave and pay the fine.
Leaving Korea was apparently a big mistake. I left with a decent amount of savings, and have lost nearly all of that as a result of ridiculously low wages in Prague, and bureaucracy/scam fees left, right and centre in Istanbul. I am homesick in equal measures for Korea and NI.
So, what next? I want to go home… I think. I may just be tired and frustrated and homesick, though. But I have no job options at home, and would be starting from scratch – no job, no prospects, no house, no car, no money.
Feeling understandably glum and worried about all this, I left the police station and hailed a taxi to go to work, as I had no idea where I was. My taxi driver was, in a word, insane – and, in another word, drunk. He veered around all over the road like a mental case, even stopping the car at one point to flag down a passing pedestrian and scrounge a cigarette off him. His attempts to engage me in conversation were funny at first, but took an unpleasant turn when I lost patience with him going on and on and on at me in slurred Turkish that I hadn’t a hope of understanding. I have no idea what you’re saying, I kept saying in English, exasperated and exhausted. Please. I just want to go to work. He was so determined to make me answer questions I didn’t understand that at one point he was literally twisted around in his seat, yelling into my face, with apparently no awareness of the fact that he was hurtling down a busy main road at the time.
Enough! Stop! STOP! I eventually yelled, losing my cool completely. I threw some money at him and leapt out, slamming the door and walking the rest of the way to work. It was awfully symbolic, in retrospect.
Yeah. I want to go home.
But what now?