Day 24: Cireli: Passport
I should move my passport from my purse to my suitcase; I don’t need to carry it while I’m walking around the area. If someone were to stop me and ask for it, I have a photocopy I can show.
I went to move my passport wasn’t in my purse. Hmm. It must be in the mesh zippered pocket in my suitcase, the other place I keep it. I pushed a few things out of the way and checked the pocket. It wasn’t there.
Hmm. These are the only two places I put my passport. I never lay it around.
When you travel outside the US, each country has rules for how you carry your ID. In Vietnam, I was instructed to only carry a photocopy. In Cuba I was told I’d better hide my passport incredibly well, because it was worth a mint on the black market, so I only carried a copy. Here in Turkey I am told to always carry the passport itself, but really… even on the beach? I need the original document at the hamam?
Today was going to be a combination beach day and exploring more ancient ruins, so I wanted to leave it at the bungalow.
I searched the hiding places again. Not there. I took everything out of my purse. Not there. I took everything out of my day bag. Not there.
In Turkey checkpoints are set up along roads. Once when I was with the archeologist we drove up to a “Pop up” check point.
He said to me, “Take You paper out.”
Oops. I figured I didn’t need it to walk around Ephesus.
“You don’t have it?” he asked after I explained that I had a copy on me.
We drove up to the checkpoint and he told the police officer that he was an archaeologist going to Ephesus, and we were waved through. After that I carried my passport everywhere I went in Selcuk.
I had the passport when I checked into the bungalow community a few days ago. It had to be around here. I went through my purse and my daybag, again. Slower this time, organizing as I took everything out and clearing away old receipts and trash. Everything in my purse and day bag was laying on the counter. There was no question: my passport wasn’t there.
When I was on the bus from Isparta to Antalya, the bus got pulled over at a checkpoint and some very stern officials came on the bus. The lead made an announcement in Turkish. Everyone on the bus was very quiet.
I waited. Nope. No English translation.
The men across from me took out their wallets and handed the man their ID cards. I handed the man my passport.
He held my passport a few inches from his face and studied the cover, sure he’d found a fake. Then opened it to the page with my photo which was taken at Walgreens when they had a sale. It wasn’t a good photo of me, but it only cost $5. Sitting here while an official who would decide my fate with a photo that doesn't look like me made me realize that cheap passport photos are a terrible idea. Note taken.
He flipped through the pages of the passport looking to see where I’d been. I wondered if he would link the places I’ve been into some kind of… plot. He found the page with the stamp showing I entered the country through Istanbul and held his gaze there for several moments, then snapped it shut and kept it. He kept my passport. He walked through the bus collecting every ID from every person on the bus into a big stack in his hands, then took the documents off the bus and into a nearby building.
The driver and his staff got off the bus, too. It was as if they didn’t care about our fates and though that made me feel a little lonely, it was clear that they didn’t care about our fates. They sat drinking tea and smoking cigarettes at a little area with tables and I wondered how long it would take to check the identification of a full sized bus with every seat taken.
Ask any Turkish person and he or she will tell you that these controls are good and that they make the country safer. I’m not sure if they are looking for terrorists or illegal aliens or bank robbers, but sitting there on the very quiet bus waiting for them to process our identifications my mind wandered a little.
I practiced saying the words, “I want to talk to someone in the American Consulate,” which was going to make a lot of people who don’t speak English shrug their shoulders. That sentence loses its punch when you can’t understand it.
After twenty miutes or so the official returned the pile of ID’s to the driver and we were free to go. I put my passport back into the front, zippered pocket of my purse, its home.
It was almost time to panic. Seriously, my passport had to be here. I rechecked both places, twice. I checked a few more places where I might have put it. Nope. Nothing.
I walked to the manager’s office, surely he had it. I know that when hotel staff in Turkey processes a new guest, they must make a photocopy of their ID and send it to the police department. Maybe my passport was sitting in the photocopier, waiting for me. The manager wasn’t in his office.
Hmm. I sent him an email asking if he had my passport, then left for a morning of exploring.
I walked all the way back to the ruins of Olympos and drank a whole bottle of water along the way. I bought two more bottles at the entrance and walked in. There’s something about ancient ruins that excites me. It’s a proof of history that wasn’t readily available in upstate New York, other than finding the occasional arrowheads from the Native Americans of long ago, we don’t have buildings that are very old.
Where I live now, in Kingston, New York, there is a church called the “Old Dutch Church” that was originally built in 1660 which makes it over three hundred years old. The church is used for many different community functions and is still used as a church. It’s the pride of Kindgston and the seat of many historical reenactments. School children visit the church… because it’s so… old. Three hundred and fifty nine years old is something to celebrate where I live.
So you can see why being around ruins that are many thousands of years old is is exciting to me.
I figured I’d be in the ruins for an hour or two and then make my way back to my hotel to deal with the passport. But five hours later, I was still wandering through the site, wide eyed. I wanted to touch every wall and walk through every door. I climbed the mountain to get closer to the ruins on top. There were thorn bushes around the top ruin and they drew blood from my arms and legs as I passed them, but I barely noticed. Those people of long ago could look one way and see the Mediterrean Sea, then turn the other way and see a dense forest, well if it was a forest thousands of years ago. Best views ever.
I sat to hydrate and realised I needed to reapply sunscreen, but didn’t have any on me. Either I had to sit in the shade for the next four hours, or find sunscreen. I saw a woman applying sunscreen to herself and walked up to her and asked if I could have some.
“Sure.” she said and it felt like a miracle that I found someone who spoke English, albeit with a Britich accent.
We sat in the shade for a while comparing stories: I teach special education, she is a teacher’s assistant with a 14 year old son who needs extra support. He was back in the room sleeping because the sensory load of being in a new place exhausted him.
She showed me a red lump on her arm. Spider bite? The towns around here are so small, she couldn’t buy an antihistamine and it was concerning as the lump was growing.
I had extra benadryl in my room and offered her some. I entered my name into her phone as “Holly has Benadryl” and without discussing it she entered her name into my phone, “Lorraine Bite.” She and her friend and their children would meet up with me later to pick up the medicine.
With my new sunscreen protecting me, I spent a few more hours exploring. I was low on water. And overheated. And tired. I bought more water at the exit and started the very long, very hot walk back home.
I stopped in the manager’s office. He said, “Did you find your passport.”
“No.” I said. “Do you have it?”
He opened drawers and dug under piles. “I don’t have it.” he said. “You have to find it.”
I walked slowly back to my room. I was sweating so much it looked like I had showerd with my clothes on. Rather than searching for the passport right away, I drank a bottle of water, then another. I showered, washed my clothes in the bathroom sink and hung them on the clothesline on my porch. I sat under the airconditioner wishing it would work, then ate a snack.
Refreshed, I resumed the search. When I removed everything out of my suitcase, I found the passport right away, in the “dirty clothes” pocket. There? How did it get there? That’s the thing about traveling alone; you can’t blame others when you do something stupidly unexplainable. Was I that tired when I checked in?
I sent a message to the manager who replied with a stern, “Don’t lose it again.” I wanted to respond with a “Thanks, dad.” becaue he’s twenty years younger than I am, but didn’t think that kind of jest would cross cultural lines. I wonder if he would have turned me in if I didn’t find my ID?
My new British friends came for a visit and we hung out on the beach while Loraine popped a few Benadryls. Her friend and her friend’s son went for a swim. It was the best time of day on the beach, nearly sundown.
Her friend’s son wanted to pick a prickly pear off a cactus as this is the time of year they are ripe. His mother gave him stern directions: you can not use your hands. You can not use your clothes. It was one of those logic puzzles I used to give to my middle school students where there isn’t a good answer.
Her son was not deterred.
Both boys ran off and I compared travel stories with my new friends as we watched as Loraine’s swelling went down. Medicine works. The friend had been to Turkey several times and had the most beautiful Turkish towel, a cloth that’s multicolored woven with tassles on the ends.
When the boys returned, the friend’s son had a prickly pear cactus stuck on a stick, a brilliant plan. His mother carefully took it off and we each took turns trying it. Sweet, like a pear and filled with hard, slippery seeds that were also edible.
There’s something about sitting on a beach with strangers who have become new friends, pulling prickly spears from my fingers on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. My thoughts didn’t lean towards what I am missing at home or the inconveniences of the day.
I watched as the sky slowly turned pink and dug my feet into the sand. And tried to suck the prickly pear spears from my fingers.