18 August 2012
This date has great significance for us. We received our "calling" around this date in 1995 when we lived in Cradock: See our post: "A Clear Call". It was also the date in 1999 when the news broke about the 7,2 magnitude earthquake in the Marmara-region of Turkey. We wrote about that in this blog under "Crises Control" and the posts that followed.
It was on this date in 2012 that we arrived at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul to backpack through Turkey looking for opportunities that will allow us return to live and work there on a work and residence permit.
It was a long but normal flight from Cape Town to Istanbul. As we departed the flight just after 07:00 am and entered the Airport building I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was a friend we met through our ties with Petra Institute. He was in transit to another destination and had to spend the day in Istanbul. He asked us if we could spend the day with him showing him some of the jewels of Istanbul. It was his first time in the city and he knew we lived there before. We were happy to assist and keep him company for the day, as we could also only arrive at our friends' place that evening.
He was in the line in front of us as we approached the customs area. We agreed that we will meet up at the baggage area. Magda was in front of me and we had our passports ready. When it was her turn, Magda approached the customs official. He checked her passport and stamped it. She moved through the "gate" and waited for me. I approached the official and presented my passport. He scanned it as usual and then stopped and sternly looked at me. He was suddenly very serious and made a call from his desk telephone. I suddenly felt nervous and my thoughts ran through different scenarios. What was the problem? My passport was valid, My passport picture was clear. I could not imagine what happened next.
When he placed the telephone handset back, he told me to step back and out of the line. He exit his booth and pointed to an airport official a few meters away. Entry into Turkey has been denied. You will be deported. This official will take care of you. I could not belief my ears. How is this possible? I turned to look where Magda was. She was still waiting in the area behind customs. I could see the shock on her face. My documentation was handed to the airport official and the customs official went back to his booth. I felt numb and could not think clearly. All I could ask was "why"? The official told me that he will take me to the deportation office for further processing. I was not ready to go anywhere. I suddenly realized that I will be separated from Magda and that she had no clue to what was happening to me. I pointed to her and told the official that she was my wife and that she was waiting for me to collect our luggage. The official told me that she could collect our luggage, but that I will not be allowed to help her. I will be put on the first flight back to South Africa that night. "But what about my wife", I protested. "She can book herself on that same flight", the official explained.
I was still confused and felt stuck. I started to walk towards Magda and the official allowed me to speak to her. I told her to get our luggage and to then go to the airline office to change her flight to the first flight back to South Africa. "I will wait for you at the deportation office", I told her. "But, where will I find you", she insisted. I looked at the official for an explanation because I realized that I had no idea where the deportation office was. He gave a vague explanation and started walking, pulling me on my arm. I reluctantly left Magda and followed him to the deportation office.
It was taken to the deportation office and my documentation was handed over to another official behind a desk. I was asked to sat down and the official left leaving me alone in the office with the man behind the desk.
I suddenly felt tired and totally disorientated. What happened? Where was I and how will Magda find me? There were so many questions and a long day awaited us!