And I’m off!

I’m sitting in the Turkey airport, exhausted after a long night of flying. I’m only halfway to my destination and what an adventure this has already been! I left Louisville last night around 8, after some tearful and difficult goodbyes. There were only 12 people on a plane that could hold 40, so I had an entire lane to myself. Upon arriving in Chicago and finding my next gate, my plane was already boarding- an hour early! That was only one of the many surprises on my flight to Istanbul. First off, the plane was HUGE. There were four separate sections of the plane, each with maybe a hundred people. They definitely gave us princess treatment. Maybe that’s normal for international flights, but since I’ve never left the U.S., I was shocked. My seat was stocked with a pillow, blanket, mini toiletry kit, slippers, and headphones. Before even taking off, the flight attendants offered us a Turkish Delight on a toothpick (nasty, by the way) and a steaming washcloth (not quite sure the point of that?). The food was definitely interesting to say the least, but it felt like a feast. Every time I started to close my eyes, they would appear with more. For dinner, I had mushroom ravioli, bread, “salad”, some cheeses, and cheesecake (my favorite). They offered a variety of snacks and drinks throughout the flight. One disappointment was finding out most other countries don’t have diet coke- only coca cola “light”- which doesn’t taste the same at all. They also brought us breakfast in the morning: eggs, potatoes, some veggies, bread, and fruit. Even though it wasn’t my favorite, it was definitely cool to try some Turkish cuisine.

The flight was insanely long (11 hours!), but time didn’t pass too slowly. Each passenger had their own mini TV and could pick from over 40 movies. I also slept a lot, as much as possible on a plane. I sat by a cute elderly lady, but we couldn’t really communicate because she barely spoke English. We finally arrived at 8 am, but here, it was 5 pm. It feels so weird because I basically lost an entire day. What I saw of Istanbul was beautiful. The landscape was breathtaking. This airport, on the other hand, is not my favorite. It’s huge, insanely crowded, and burning hot. I am extremely overwhelmed. There is absolutely nowhere to sit down. Most signs are in Turkish and the workers don’t speak English very well, so it took me awhile to figure out where I was going. It took fifteen minutes just to get a Starbucks worker to understand I needed a fork. So many languages are being spoken around me. It’s so cool to just listen. I’ve never seen so many different ethnicities, languages, clothing styles, and religious rituals (done in public!). I still have 5 hours until my flight to Johannesburg and there’s no Wi-Fi, so that kind of sucks. I bought a calling card and got to talk to my mom, which definitely helped. I just bought Popeye’s for dinner and it was nothing like the American version. I’m pretty sure I got completely overcharged. The prices were in Turkish and they ended up charging me $15. Yet another language barrier. I think I’ll go attempt to explore the airport. It’s full of interesting stores and cafes!

At this point, I’m just ready to get to Botswana and let this journey begin. It’s so weird being alone for this amount of time. It’s a really lonely feeling. I can’t wait to meet the other students on my program. I miss home already, but I’m excited to see what’s in store for me next.

(I wrote this yesterday, but just now got internet access)

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