There is a box containing 100 knit hats, handmade with love by one of my grandparents’ dear friends, sitting in a FedEx warehouse. Knitting hats and sending them to different groups of people in need has become a special type of ministry to her, so upon hearing about the poverty and struggles of the thousands of refugees here in Turkey, she inquired about sending me some. It was a total God-thing, being that hats were the exact clothing article requested to be collected for our clothing drive.
She shipped the hats and soon after, a notice was delivered to my door telling me to come pick up my box. I googled some directions, found out which buses to take, borrowed my roommates backpacking backpack to stuff the hats in for an easier return trip, and set off on my voyage. Based on previous experiences with customs and packages, I prepared myself for a long day.
Sure enough, staying true to my past history with Turkish procedures, what followed was a series of hapless events…
It was almost comical. A 23 year old American girl, traipsing back and forth between airports and customs officials and FedEx warehouses. I had entered the world of men. Every office I stepped foot into I immediately became the exhibit in a zoo. If only the attention played in my favor. Unfortunately, it did not.
They were highly skeptical of my explanation as to what my package’s contents were for. Surely I was planning on selling them and making a profit. I defended my case a hundred times over; I came here to fight for those hats– for the many who would be blessed by them. I was not going to leave empty-handed.
So the charade continued. To add to the stress, English-speakers were nowhere to be seen; thus far, the communication was all in Turkish…
Finally, I was allowed a petition for my box, and it was explained that all I needed was a stamp of approval from the commercial dealings department. I went back out to my taxi driver (with whom I had racked up quite a bill) and we set-off for the airport again. Thanking him a million times for joining me in this race, I ran back into a whirlwind of a system I did not understand and pleaded my case to an official. Perhaps he was impressed at my Turkish, or perhaps he felt sorry for the chaotic mess I was handed as he had previously witnessed me running around like a chicken with my head cut-off. Whatever the reason, he stamped my papers. YES. WINNING.
Back at FedEx, I confidently presented my approved petition, proud of the victory. The two men behind the desk seemed to be amused by my persistence. They appeared to almost enjoy watching me wiggle whichever way they directed; I was powerless, a pawn under their command.
As I sat there awaiting my fate- rather, the fate of my box- a woman came in. She was the first woman I had seen all day. And she spoke English. Ah ha! Perhaps there will be a breakthrough this time! I replayed to her the events of the day and everything I had gone through and what the hats are for and how I now had the stamp that should allow me to get my box. She began speaking to my captors; if there had been any misinterpretations before, hopefully those would be cleared up.
Then, all was silent. The decider clicked his pen and wrote something on the back of my approved stamp. He was sending me to someone else because he wasn’t buying my story. Stamp and all.
I broke. The tears came. I had excepted to encounter some bumps today, but I never imagined it would be this difficult.
And how would I know if I got this next person to approve me that this man wouldn’t send me on yet ANOTHER wild goose chase? If they weren’t budging now, I doubt it would make a difference even if I got Ataturk to testify for me.
Contrary to my character, I threw in the towel. Not wanting to accept the defeat but at the same time realizing that this scavenger hunt could very well continue as long as they deemed it. My resources were drained from the transportation costs, and my emotions were drained from the man in the tie behind the desk who was never going to take me for my word.
Oh, and sitting in traffic every time I was sent somewhere else was also beginning to take its toll on my sorry state of being…
Anyways, to say the least, it was a disappointing day. I did everything I could, but in the end the control was out of my hands. Trying to think positively so I wouldn’t be a sobbing mess on the bus ride home, I searched the day’s events for some silver lining.
Two things came to mind that slightly raised my optimism meter:
1)I spoke Turkish and actually found myself understanding it, and 2)the outbursts from my taxi driver as he loudly complained about how corrupt and ridiculous the entire situation was. I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but I’m sure glad he did.