Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 11

July 11, 2013

Sleeping late wasn’t an option on the big day. I got up as soon as light crept over the sky and then a feeling of emptiness overtook me when I contemplated the fact that I had no laptop to sit at or Internet access to keep in touch with anyone.

I made coffee for the last time and after drinking it, cleaned the coffeemaker since it’d be going to Willoughby that same day. I had set aside the suitcase that would be going to the Peace Corps office with most of my winter clothes and other things. Luann had given me a great idea for the remaining spices and staples on my cabinets as she’d suggested I put them in a bag and take them to the volunteers for them to choose whatever they wanted.

Willoughby showed up at noon and we proceeded to bring all the packages and the suitcase downstairs and then I went in search of a taxi driver. I saw a newish mini-van parked in front and got the driver to come around to the front of the building where we loaded the suitcase and bags immediately.

We made it to the Peace Corps offices where we dropped the suitcase in one place and the collection of book club books in another. Their resource room was definitely minuscule compared to what we used to have at the Peace Corps compound in Kathmandu.

The taxi driver had waited for us and then took us to Willoughby’s flat where I brought in the printer and the other bags before we went to the store to buy a beer and drink it in her kitchen. We agreed to meet at six to have dinner at the French restaurant Ratatouille which had been highly recommended.

Damira had called before to pinpoint the time I’d be returning home for she wanted to see me before my departure. She was downstairs waiting when I got in and we sat in the living room talking for a bit. She was observing Ramadan and thus turned down my offer for something to drink or eat. She even told me that hugging or kissing between sunrise and sunset was forbidden.

I had forgotten to charge my cell phone the day before and now found myself with no charger of any kind and only a bar or two. Damira offered to ask one of my neighbors for a charger since Nokia was such a popular brand in the country. She went out and returned with one letting me know I needed to return it to its rightful owner by 9:00 pm.

Damira said goodbye admonishing me one more time to find god in any religion of my choice. I tried to hug her, but she reminded me about Ramadan once again. I walked downstairs with her so she could pinpoint the apartment where I needed to return the charger and then bid her goodbye as her brother-in-law was giving her a ride home.

I took a quick shower, ironed one of my Tajik outfits and got ready for Willoughby’s arrival. We rode the #13 marshrutka and then walked three blocks to the restaurant which was located on the first floor of the Europa Hotel on a street I’d never walked on. We chose to sit out on the terrace facing the main drag.

Prices were outrageous and I wasn’t really hungry, so I settled for a portion of a salmon quiche and a green salad. Willoughby ordered roasted duck and mashed potatoes. Portions were minuscule and my quiche was evidently not something made locally, but had been heated in the microwave for too long. It had no flavor or seasonings of any kind, so I had to leave it on the side and only ate my salad. I paid over $10.00 for this privilege while watching lots of other ex-pats stroll in and out of the place.

We walked together to where Willoughby would catch her marshrutka and we hugged tightly as we said goodbye. I walked two more blocks and got into another one to take me home. I had arranged to have the same taxi driver pick me up at 10:00 pm to take me to the airport since Diana had arranged to pick up the key to the flat at that time instead of 11:00. I walked the flat from one end to another one more time making sure everything was clean, in its place and presentable.

At nine, I went downstairs to take the garbage out one last time and to return the charger to my neighbors, but no one answered the door. When I went back a second time, I found the neighbors still absent, but the taxi driver already parked at the door waiting for me.

I started to bring down my bags, which made quite a racket on the stairs, thus prompting the cleaning lady to come out of her flat to snoop on the matter. She came downstairs asking me questions about my landlady when she knew full well that I didn’t speak Russian and couldn’t answer any of them.

I waited for Diana from 10:00 to 10:30 pm and she didn’t show up. I couldn’t locate my cell phone and was thus unable to call her. I didn’t occur to me to have the taxi driver call me to see if I could hear my phone then. When half an hour elapsed and there was no sign of her, I gave the taxi driver the signal to leave and left the key with the cleaning woman along with the charger.

We were already on the highway to the airport when Diana called. I now realized my cell phone had been on the outside pocket of my handbag and I answered it to let her know that the key had been left with the woman in unit #29. Diana didn’t apologize for being late, on the contrary, she argued I had mentioned I wanted to leave for the airport as late as possible.

I countered by saying she had given me a specific time and I needed to arrange for a taxi to get me to the airport. She wanted to know where the money was for the utility bills was, which I had had at hand while waiting for her, about $35.00, but didn’t feel comfortable leaving the money with someone I didn’t know at all.

I told her I’d try to get a friend to get the money to her, but then realized Willoughby would be too busy with her own trip to take out time to deal with this issue. I’d have no way of reimbursing anybody else who could pay the debt for me either. After giving it some thought, I decided that I had fulfilled my side of the bargain and shouldn’t feel guilty if the landlady and her friend hadn’t done their part.

When I got to the airport, there was no one outside that could carry my bags for me. In fact, there was nobody around at all. The taxi driver was gracious enough to go and find me a cart and I had to pile the suitcases on it myself. There was a stupid grate before reaching the building and the wheels got stuck in it causing my smaller bag to go flying in air I and then falling to the ground.

Some spectators on the second floor had seen my struggle and motioned for me to move the cart sideways to be able to maneuver around the grate. I made it through security and asked if there was an elevator to the second floor where the Turkish Airlines counter was. They said yes, but my question must not have been understood as there were no elevators, just  an escalator. Thankfully, two young guys came by and offered to help me get my bags upstairs cart and all.

It was only 11:00 pm when I settled down in front of gate #3 and started the long wait for my 3:55 am flight. I ate the half shawarma sandwich I had left before it got entirely cold and got engrossed in the reading of my latest book pick, “The Book Thief”. 

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