An American in Istanbul

We’ve officially been expatriates for four days, and in that short time, Chas and I have visited an international hospital and police station. More on the police later.

When we bought our tickets from Boston to Cape Town, we set it up so that we’d have a few days’ layover in Istanbul to visit the city and slowly get used to South African time (7 hours ahead of Boston). After missing our original flight to Istanbul, we settled on a 35-hour layover and packed it full of plans: The Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar in the Old City, a boat cruise on the Bosphorus, and an afternoon touring Beyoglu while getting in as much Turkish coffee as possible.

But then, on our nine-hour flight, I pass out in the aisle.

Actually, I pass out on the toilet, vomit, then pass out in the aisle, then vomit again. And again. And again…for about five hours straight. Here’s what you need to know about getting sick on a plane: if you have to do it, do it on Turkish Airlines. The flight attendants are saints. They call for a doctor (I didn’t hear the announcement as I was O-U-T, but Chas said it was just as cliché sounding as you’d think), put us in first-class so I can lie down, graciously take two bags of vomit from me without breaking a smile, get me to the airport clinic once we land, and translate everything for me so that the port doctor can call an ambulance and we won’t have to wait.

There is absolutely nothing more humiliating than vomiting in public. I’ve added a few public places to my own collection this week: into puke bags on the entire descent into Istanbul, into my own hand on the airport trolley (absolutely my lowest moment of the day), and the entire wheelchair ride through Ataturk Airport. I am so out of it that when we go back to the airport to fly out the next day, I recognize nothing about the place.

One interesting thing about the Ataturk Airport is that they have these really cool Segways with wheelchairs attached to the front. And they turn very fast. It isn’t great. There’s a blur of people’s legs as they try to dodge us. We are fast, I am loud and horrible…they are likely terrified.

Chas gets our luggage, we hop into an ambulance, and they drive us to a private hospital where someone immediately does a brain scan and a sonogram. Only two people speak English in the entire hospital. Here’s my best memory of one conversation:

Before the PET scan:

Someone: Madam, do you have baby?

Me: No, I’m not pregnant…puke, puke, puke…

Someone: But medicine for test very bad for baby. Possible pregnant?

Me: No, I’m not pregnant…puke, puke…

Someone: One more time—do you have baby?

Me: NO BABY.

hospital bed

Chas’s view.

Apart from this conversation, most of the others revolve around me re-telling what happened. It’s hard to explain—Do I say I “fell?” “Passed out?” “Fainted?” And I don’t really know what happened. My best guess is a combination of dehydration, cough medicine and anxiety from being a very fearful flyer. But there’s the silver lining—I was so sick that I didn’t even register any turbulence, big or small.

The entire hospital staff is amazing, though. We spend the night there while they re-hydrate me, stop the nausea, practice some English. Chas loves the food. We sleep and sleep and can’t wait to get back on another flight—14 hours this time—to get to Cape Town.

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11 thoughts on “An American in Istanbul

  1. Bg says:

    Ha!! (Not of course what happened to you) but I love everything about this blog!!! Can’t wait to follow two of my favorites for a year, way far away. Going to start a fund-raiser for tickets….

    Liked by 1 person

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