The last few blog posts have been about my adventures in Turkey after I set my intention to visit the ancient Temple Complex of Ephesus.
The next morning after the feast of Eid in the courtyard of my hotel in Kusadasi, the taxi driver showed up at 7 AM to take me to Izmir airport. The roads were bumpy. The taxi’s suspension did not suspend very much at all. The upholstery inside the taxi was grimy and smelled of cheap cigarettes. The driver was gruff and unshaven and smoked cheap cigarettes with the window open all the way. And so I arrived at Izmir airport very weak and nauseous. I could not even imagine standing in the queue to check in without fainting.
A young man wearing an airport uniform saw me enter the check-in area looking distressed and approached me. In perfect English, and with a kind smile, he asked: “Can I help you?”
“Oh, thank you!” I cried. “I am feeling so sick and I don’t have the strength to stand in the queue to check in for my flight.”
“Well, I can take care of that for you. I just need your passport and your ticket or boarding pass.” I handed him the documents and sat down with all my luggage and watched while he went to the front of the queue and got my boarding pass. Fortunately, he was unusually tall for a Turk and I could see the back of his white, airport-uniform, cap above the jostling crowds at check-in.
When he came back, he handed me my boarding pass and asked:
“Would you like me to take you to see the airport doctor?”
“Yes, please.” I answered.
“OK” he said. “It is quite a long walk but I will get a trolley for your luggage.”
He came back with a trolley and piled my luggage on. As we walked towards the doctor’s office, I told him my story of eating the salad washed in local water in Gaziantep and being close to death’s door for the last 3 days. He apologised for the bad water in Gaziantep as if it was somehow his fault that I was suffering.
Before we got into the doctor’s office, he cautioned me: “I know you are not feeling well, but I should warn you that when the doctor examines you, she might decide that you are too sick to fly today. In that case, you will have to stay in Turkey until you are better.”
“Oh no!! I have to get back to the UK today!” This was non-negotiable. I was longing for clean water, the English language, my own bed, my National Health Service doctor and the home comfort of familiarity and predictability.
“In that case, try to appear strong” he advised.
I wanted to lay down on the bed in the doctor’s office but I sat on the chair and appeared strong. The doctor spoke in Turkish to my airport companion and then sent me on my way. My new friend took me to the luggage scanner and loaded my cases on the conveyor belt. He was not permitted to accompany me on this part of the journey but he said he would see me “on the other side.” I did not know what he meant but suddenly he was gone. He had disappeared through a secret door in a wall next to the luggage scanner.
Once my luggage had been scanned, I walked towards the departure lounge and there was my friend waiting and smiling. He had procured a little carton of cherry juice which he handed to me. The sugar-filled liquid made me feel better instantly.
We sat and chatted while we waited for my flight to be called. There was something about him that was so special. Such a gentle and refined soul. He was young – probably in his mid-twenties – good-looking and particularly handsome in his airport uniform but completely humble and seemingly unaware of his masculine charm. After the sleaze of the local salesmen in the market place in Kusadasi who disrespectfully tried to sell me their wares by flirting with me, here was a Turk who was blatantly in service to me because that was his job and his job description did not include hitting on female tourists. What a relief!
“How is it that you speak such good English?” I asked.
“Well, my father loved languages and he told me that English was the most important foreign language I could learn. I studied some English at school but I used to watch English movies and listen to English songs in my free time. One day it is my dream to go to England.”
I gave him my business card and told him to contact me if he ever came to England. He took it and held it as if I had given him a great treasure.
“Where are you from in Turkey?” I asked.
“Mardin” he answered.
The old city of Mardin, photo by Nevit Dilmen
“Oh, that is where the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus!” I cried, excitedly.
“Yes,” he said, clearly so delighted that this sick foreign tourist knew something about the tiny, but very unusual, region of Turkey from which he hailed.
Syriac Christian priest at the Mor Hananyo Monastery outside of Marden, Turkey (also called the Saffron Monastery). It is built on the site of a Sun worship temple that was converted into a citadel by the Romans. Photo by Floyd Henderson. Freeforcommercialuse.org
“So do you speak Aramaic?” I asked him. “Not very well,” he said. “My grandfather spoke it to me when I was younger so I understand it all but I grew up speaking Turkish.”
And then my flight was called.
“You will be able to board now. I will leave you here. Have a safe flight. I hope you will feel better soon.”
“Thank you so much for all your help. I could not have done this without you.” I said.
“You are welcome,” he said, then he smiled and walked away (or did he glide?) and disappeared behind another secret door in the wall designated for airport staff.
Was he a human or was he an angel? Or an angelic human? I have never received such ethereal customer service at any airport anywhere in the world.
Appreciating the miracle of global communication via technology.
“Earth’s Miracles are Heaven’s Laws” Johann Richter