Continuing our trip to the south right after Christmas
We descended the steep and winding roads through the mountains, dropping again to sea level, and arrived in Tarsus in late afternoon.
We went first to the home of a local friend of John’s whom we called Charles. John wanted to talk with him about setting up a foundation to use as a legal basis for outreach.
This was our first visit to a village type home. Every aspect of family life was different from ours: take off your shoes at the door, sit on the floor, eat from a common dish on a large tray on the floor, drink tea from diminutive glasses, use a “squat” toilet.
It was primitive and charming at the same time. We were definitely in the “tourist stage” of adjustment to a new culture., enjoying every new adventure.
Later we drove on to the next big city and stayed with other workers. In contrast to the freezing temperatures in Ankara, here on the Mediterranean shore we were fighting mosquitoes!
After returning to our city, we sat down with John to make plans. In order to stay In Turkey long term, I needed a job. My best bet was teaching English, so I went to one of the many private tutoring schools in the city and was hired.
However, before I could begin work, I had to have a work visa. And to get the necessary work visa, I had to go to an Embassy outside of the country and get a stamp in my passport.
John wanted to buy a car from Germany, so he and I decided to fly there, get a car for him, a visa for me and then drive back together.
In order to leave the country, I had to put my car into customs in because it was written into my passport. This proved to be a difficult, convoluted process, requiring the collection of signatures from a variety of offices in different places in the city.
Much later I realized that each step in the process was designed to thwart a particular form of evasion of the law. The folks here are masters at finding ways around the intricate and omnipresent bureaucracy in their country, and each evasion that was uncovered produced a new step in the process.
At the same time, I found this work with customs was very educational, with opportunities for language learning, gaining cultural insights, and recognizing appointments with “angels.” Often some local in an office would take me under his wing and usher me through that part of the process. Each incident was another God sighting.
Barbara and the boys moved in with John’s wife while we were gone. Everything went well for us, and our trip back from Germany was faster than our first one, even though it was snowy and cold.
While driving through the night in Yugoslavia, a large elk bounded up the bank beside the road and stopped, his great head of antlers hanging over the road. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to swerve, but just before I hit him, the elk turned his head away and we slipped by. Another of the many God sightings on this trip.
After our return to our new city, I went through the process of getting my car out of customs. Finally at the last step, the woman behind the counter held up my passport, just out of my reach and said, “Ok, I did my part, now you have to give me a present!” Here was another new experience for me in this new culture, my first encounter with bribes. I pulled out a $10 bill and held it out.
“That’s not enough,” she said, pullling back my passport. I tried $20. She hesitated, then accepted it. I walked away relieved that it hadn’t cost me more.
Some things would take more getting used to than others. It became my practice to not pay bribes if at all possible, but in this situation, there was no way around –but it was the only time I had to do this in all the years we lived there.
Upon examining my passport, Barbara found that the customs people had made a mistake and given me only a two month visa, not the customary three that Barbara and the boys had gotten, meaning I would have to make an early exit by myself to renew my visa if my work permit didn’t come through in time. Little did we know that this bureaucratic mistake would nearly cost me my life.
Picture: a charming meal in a village home