After 10 days of an introvert’s hell (I exaggerate), we 67 Fulbright ETAs were finally dispersing across the country. Two weeks of jet lag, lectures, and near-constant socializing had left me exhausted, and I was happy to slip into the comfortable anonymity of a three-hour bus ride.
Scratch that. I was anything but inconspicuous. I had boarded the bus in Ankara with four other yabancıs, babbling away in English, and an ungodly amount of luggage. We were very much a known entity.
But as the cityscapes of Ankara slipped into rolling, brown steppe, dotted with cypress trees, I was able to avoid the stares of the affronted teyzes by stone-cold passing out.
I came to several hours later, completely disoriented. Large chunks of marble littered the roadside, but other than that, there was nothing but flat, brown as far as the eye could see.
After we were unceremoniously offloaded in the Afyon otogar, we lugged our bags inside and looked around dazedly for our university representative, a Jay Leno-loving, wisecracking chap, whom we had only met once previously in the midst of our frenzied orientation. So, I was completely discombobulated when a man, who was not our university rep, came up, grabbed my bag, and began chattering away in English as he turned on his heel and made for the exit. I struggled after the man who was making away with my bag and nearly crashed headlong into our university rep.
As it turns out, the man who looked so ridiculous holding my Carolina blue handbag was another colleague, a point I had missed completely as my brain struggled to keep up with my surroundings.
a quick game of Tetris packing five people’s luggage into two cars our şoför-colleagues whisked us off to Afyon Kocatepe Üniversitesi‘s campus. They deposited we five zombies at the dark and desolate on-campus hotel, with assurances that we could find a meal at any of the on-campus dining halls and that they’d be back for us in the morning.
Looking around at my surroundings, I couldn’t say I wholly believed them. We were standing in the middle of the flat, deserted campus. the architecture was somehow simultaneously futuristically modern and dated. The wind whistled across the flat, dusty plains, between the excessively spaced out buildings (at least 500 meters from one building to the next. The call to prayer echoed eerily across the campus as the late afternoon sun glinted off the minaret of the under-construction Kocatepe Camii. In the distance, we could make out the craggy are-they-mountains-or-are-they-hills? (a debate which rages on today, #teamhills) that broke the otherwise pancake-flat horizon. And our last contact with civilization was kicking up a cloud of dust as it took off into the sunset.
Hungry, travel-weary, and shellshocked, we girded ourselves to hunt for food. Campus was completely deserted. Not a soul to be seen, let alone a dining hall to be open. Also, campus was a good 8 kilometers outside of town, making the idea of getting there in our present collective state nearly impossible. We dodged across the highway to an equally desolate village, where we found one tiny cafe open. Kebaps and çay were acquired and made us all feel less like the walking dead.
We trudged back through campus to our hotel, where our footsteps echoed ominously as we traipsed through the sterile hallway, lit only by a flickering light down at the end.
Tired and more than a bit weirded out by the whole day, I collapsed onto my musty sheets. I wasn’t really sure of where I was or how I ended up starring in a Samuel Beckett play or whether my university rep would actually show up the next day. One thing was for sure — this year was gonna get weird. Afyon’a hoş geldin. Welcome to Afyon.