Today, the third Thursday in November, is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Yet on this day of French celebration, all I can think about is Turkey as I unwind from my week-long journey to that country, where I visited the city of Izmir and the regions of Manisa and Denizli.
The purpose of the amazing trip was to attend the EWBC (European Wine Bloggers) Digital Media Conference and the post-conference visits to rural wineries and ancient historic sites. At home now, as I continue to savor the undercurrent of primal, eternal wildness I experienced there, the fireplace in my home office has come to life for the first time this season.
Minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the journey and to lessons learned. The second leg of my trip from Florida to Turkey, the flight from JFK to Istanbul, was cancelled because of the snowstorm that hit NYC on November 7th, just a week after Hurricane Sandy hit the area. (The photo is of JFK Airport on November 8th, the afternoon after the airport’s closure on the 7th; plows were still at work.) After sitting on the plane for more than four hours only to be booted off, I joined thousands of others who had to wait in long lines to reschedule flights, and then find places to sleep in the terminal.
During the three hours I spent on the airport’s Delta telephone to reschedule my flight, at first I came to the conclusion that it would be far more sensible to simply go home than to arrive at the conference two days late. And then—after having had the refund applied to my card, and a ticket guaranteed for my flight back to Orlando the next morning—I said to the helpful representative, for perhaps the 25th time, “Can I ask you a question?” And this time, my question was, “What if we could go back to that Turkish Air flight you proposed, which was to fly to Istanbul tomorrow at 1:55 and connect to Izmir the next morning?”
Fortunately for me, after a soft “you’ve gotta be kidding me” chuckle from him, his answer was, “Let me see what I can do.” Toward the end of those seven hours of waiting and frustration, I realized I would probably never have the chance again to go to Turkey, let alone on a fellowship, and the thought clearly came to me: “If you don’t DO what you want to do, then you’ll never get to do what you want to do.” I want to travel the world and experience new cultures and people and joys. Sounds frightfully obvious. Nonetheless: LESSON ONE.
The next inconvenience was sleeping in JFK Airport. When I asked an airport employee if he knew of a place to take a shower in the airport, he suggested I try the Delta Sky Club, which offers 24-hour memberships for $50. However, when I arrived at their front desk, an overwhelming attitude of “Upstairs Downstairs” prevailed. I, and many others, were informed that we were “not allowed” to make such a purchase; the majority of people floating in and around the club were men “living the lie,” clearly puffed up with their own self-importance; and I even saw a famous actor there who kept circling around and staring at me—at first, I made eye contact, as I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his work, but he did a very peculiar flashing eye-glint thing at me. I don’t know, perhaps he was high.
At any rate, I walked out, feeling a sense of freedom and relief as I walked down their hallway back to the rest of Terminal 3. I found a restaurant with thin carpet tile and several other people sacked out here and there, found a spot on the floor reasonably close to a young fellow who looked strong in case trouble should arise, used my carry-on that had my computer, passport and purse in it as my “cuddle buddy,” covered same and self with the blankets that were handed out by Delta, and packed it in for the night. Frankly, I felt safer there among the “great unwashed” than I did in the club. And, I was thankful to have a roof over my head, unlike the tens of thousands of people who were homeless from the previous week’s Hurricane Sandy, only to be hit by this.
The next afternoon, I boarded the Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul for the rescheduled second leg of the trip. As I enjoyed my in-flight dinner—the best airplane food I’ve ever had—I was flooded with gratitude and happiness that I had chosen to continue on. “Life does not happen by doing the practical, sensible, or reasonable” (such as going home when it would have been easier to do so). LESSON TWO.
After reaching my final destination about 16 hours later, I learned my checked bag had been lost. No big surprise, with all the chaos in NYC, but another inconvenience. I lived in the same outfit for the next three days, in addition to the previous two overnights on an airport floor and in an airplane. There is something surreal about doing laundry in the bathtub of a Swissotel, and using a handheld hair dryer to dry everything. But it was okay. And, amazingly, the very minute I was leaving the hotel’s counter on Sunday morning, checking out and preparing to scurry to the other part of the hotel to catch the post-conference excursion, my bag materialized! The delivery person had arrived literally that moment and I was right there to sign for it. Sometimes life is too strange to understand, but it makes for fun story-telling later on.
Then there was the matter of my debit card not working. I had forgotten to notify my banker that I was traveling, and Turkey was on their “closed” list. A call to the bank as soon as they were open again put all of that back into good order, but on future trips I will remember to call the bank before I leave. An obvious practicality to many, but nonetheless, for me, LESSON THREE. Thanks to Robert McIntosh for bailing me out.
I’m safely back now after an uneventful flight back, although I will say that “Don’t travel in and out of JFK” is, for me, LESSON FOUR.
Today I am truly enjoying the fireplace and the peace of my own home after the chaos of the airport.
The next couple of posts will be about the trip itself, so stay tuned!
Conference schedule, http://ewbc.vrazon.com/schedule/
Post-conference excursion, http://ewbc.vrazon.com/ewbc-2012-post-trip-1-manisa-denizli/