of love during a pandemic — part 1
They were my first drops of rain this year. I arrived to Istanbul at 5am on a Saturday in October to meet a lover I’ve been separated from for 8 long months. I have been waiting for this day ever since the world stopped and went into a lockdown. The last time we both met was on Valentine’s day in Beirut. Neither of us is crazy about the occasion of Valentine’s but I loved him first in Beirut and for that reason Beirut to me has become about love and whatever experience love produces.
I arrived to Istanbul at 5 am. The airport was huge, people from all around the world seemed to be all meeting at this airport. Turkey is one of the very few countries to not have any travel restrictions and outstanding requirements. For 8 months, I lived confined in Amman and oversaturated with the Jordanian experience. The Jordanian experience is as unpleasant as it sounds. I got to experience everything that is wrong in this country… It is true that times of crisis reveal and expose a lot of what is meant to be kept hidden. If you know Jordan, you know that there are many don’t knows, can’t say, better not tell polluting its atmosphere. Sometimes it feels like it’s not even safe for you to think. It is scary to deviate from the norm in Jordan. Back to Istanbul, the airport was a smooth experience. I felt like I left a cave, I heard strange sounds of different languages and seen faces (or what is seen from a face with a mask) of people from different places around the world. I felt it again, that feeling of smallness and insignificance. It is quite hilarious, in Amman’s airport I still carry my name on me. An anticipated sense of freedom is felt, but I am always ready to hide or justify my presence there alone as a woman from my tribe. The only good thing about the pandemic and QAIA airport, was the mask. I wasn’t very recognizable.
I was small, insignificant and a random traveler again. I have missed this feeling and longed for it for a long time now. I belong more to the world this way. It is unfortunate that my country only sees me as a part of a group. I am from this province, belonging to this family name, the daughter of this man, related to this man in the parliament, a Christian Jordanian. I cannot simply be ‘Jordanian’ or a woman. The two can’t even meet, Jordanian and woman. It feels like an incomplete sentence ‘she is a Jordanian woman’. But who is she related to?
I dread leaving an airport, but absolutely look forward to arriving to one. I obviously don’t enjoy waiting at baggage claim or passport check. Surprisingly arriving at Istanbul’s airport, the process was pretty easy and quick. A part I look forward to is getting a new SIM card. Always the same sentence at the kiosk, can I get a prepaid card please? and they ask for my passport. A few minutes later, I am taking out my 13 year old SIM card of the only number I’ve had and replacing it with a temporary one. In the interim, I cannot be reached on my Jordanian number. A new experience is ahead of me. This time, I really wanted to connect to the internet. I wanted to text him that I am about to get on a taxi to meet him. We are in the same city now; only a difficult conversation with a taxi driver and 30 minutes separate us.
I hop on an airport taxi. I give him the address and tell him the name of the hotel he lives next to. Opposed to what everyone else have told me, Turkish people have been pretty friendly to me so far… me an Arab in this case. As he drives me to my destination, I am there in the backseat tracking the route. My eyes fixed to the number of minutes remaining. I am more relaxed than I have been in days. I text him and go back on Google maps. I didn’t look around much. I only know it was raining, a few drops of rain were scattered on my window that distracted me from my staring contest with the GPS. He texts me ‘I can hear the adhan, you must be close’. I was seven minutes away now. Oh and about the ‘ezan’ as they say in Turkish, our facetime calls were always accompanied by the call for prayer. I leave the taxi in front of Mercure Hotels, raindrops fall on my face and I wait there with my suitcase as I look around waiting for him to come and get me.
We hugged for a minute.