From strangers to friends
Everything was in place as far as we could assess and we were ready to go. We were booked on a direct flight from Johannesburg to Istanbul. We made arrangements to stay in Istanbul, in the home of mission workers who were in their home country at that time.
There was a large group of family and friends gathered that evening in the chapel at the airport to pray with us and to send us off. We had at least four large bags of luggage which included the home school material for one year. The bags were filled to the brim and we knew we were over the weight limit. The lady booking us in on our flight was very sympathetic and because we were early she passed our luggage for loading without charging us for the excess weight.
We experienced a whirlwind of mixed emotions and the farewell happened in a blur. It was only when we were seated in the airplane that the reality slowly started to dawn on us - we were living our dream to be missionaries in Turkey!
We arrived early the morning of 3 February 1999 in Istanbul. It was mid winter and bitterly cold. We went through passport control and received our luggage. We approached the exit and as soon as we stepped out on the sidewalk a group of taxi operators swarmed around us. They all talked aloud and at once. It was difficult to make any sense of it all. I saw a station wagon and started walking towards the vehicle. We needed a bigger vehicle than the small Tofas sedan motors usually on offer. Within seconds the driver of the station wagon was next to me. Our address was on the Asian side of the city. We negotiated a price, but then realized that the luggage is still too much for one vehicle. We had to get into another vehicle. And so we left for our address.
On our way I realized that I did not draw money at the airport. I remembered that someone gave me an envelope with cash just before departure in Johannesburg. I was hoping it will be enough. I also had to call another worker to tell him that we were on our way. He has the key of our home and will meet us there. Unfortunately he was not answering his phone!
When we arrived at our destination the taxi drivers was not happy. The size and weight of the luggage and the distance to our destination was now the reason to demand almost double the amount we agreed upon! I took the envelope out of my pocket and counted the money. It was exactly the amount they demanded!
With that settled we were left outside the apartment building with all our luggage. There was still no answer from our key bearer and we had no other way to get into the building. We huddled together around our luggage to stay warm and tried to hide from the icy wind. Our South African jackets were not made for this kind of cold!
After about an hour we saw a lady calling us from an apartment opposite the one we were hoping to occupy. We were cold and thirsty and we accepted her invitation to enter her apartment. She was alone and spoke no English. We were offered tea and Turkish confectionary. After a while her 15 year old son arrived. He could speak English and we could exchange greeting and introduce ourselves properly. I managed to get hold of the key bearer and after another hour we were able to move our luggage into our new home.
We were very tired, but grateful for the neighbor who took us in and spoilt us with Turkish hospitality. We were now considered as friends!