There's nothing life making life-changing decisions on a Sunday evening. Monday morning, at the university post office, I clutched a thick envelop containing copies of my passport, my degrees, and my signature accepting a teaching job in Kayseri, Turkey. The forms, written in Turkish, were intimidating to fill out and sign last night. My Turkish roommate's interpretation and Google translate eased my nerves just enough for me to wiggle a pen around next to "Imza" (signature) and try to remember to write the date with day-month-year order.
Back at the post office, I made up my mind to spend the extra $40 to have the package tracked from Flagstaff to Kayseri. Due to the sensitive information contained, I thought $40 a reasonable insurance, or at least investment in my peace of mind. The postal clerk insisted that I "probably" didn't need to fill out a customs form because it was just papers. "Probably" "passport information" and "make it to the destination," not to mention "$40," are not words that I want to put together when it comes to accepting a job in a foreign land. "Where do you keep the customs forms?" I asked with a disapproving look on my face.
As if by karmic law, I spent the next 25 minutes loading and reloading the USPS website's online customs form to no avail. "The site must be down," said another clerk, who had clearly just come in from a smoke break, "you'll probably have to wait. Yep. That's what I'd do. Wait."
If you know my hyperbolic tendencies at all, the thought of extending this acceptance process even one more day seemed like hell on earth. I began to sweat.
Then, I overheard the original clerk's phone conversation, "Yes, they told us that under absolutely no circumstance should we be using the paper customs forms. They said we'd get a $25,000 fine." Short pause. "But, it's just papers, so does she even need a form?" Pause. "Oh OK, sounds good. Thanks, Loretta."
"Down at the main office," original clerk said, "they say you don't need the customs form."
Torn by my instinctual desires to 1) protect my documents with all possible forms needed, and 2) be rid of the stressful envelop as soon as possible, I contemplated the envelop reaching Istanbul without a customs form, being assessed as useless, incomplete mail, and then tossed in the Mediterranean and slowly sinking to the bottom. I'll never get a job. I'll be homeless. I'll never be able to have a cat.
Clearly, my impending career doom was not stronger than my obsession with finishing projects. I wiped my brow and faked confidence as I watched the clerk attach my address form to the crisp envelop, peel and stick the envelop closed, and then casually toss it into a deep bin that was only mildly reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Bon voyage, packet of important documents. İyi yolculuklar! Güle, güle! See you in Kayseri.
In years past, I have traveled abroad alone, wary of what lie beyond the jet-way, just beyond the guest house, or over the next ridge in the distance. My documents have flown overseas alone, my luggage has traveled solo, and my heart has stayed in the states with someone else.
The difference, this time, is that the envelop contained two sets of documents, one for me, and the other for my fiance, Alan. Our documents will cross the ocean together, just like we will in a few months. I can take my heart with me this time. I don't have to fear what's beyond the luggage carousel or how I'll catch the right bus from the airport. I've got a partner to explore the world with. It's a new adventure in Turkey, and in sharing my life with a partner. Here's to new adventures and the next chapter in our lives.
And, if the documents do meet a watery demise just outside of Istanbul, Ms. Loretta will be getting a call.