Once the required paperwork is filled out and your passport and ID information is recorded everyone is grouped by their ‘manga’ (30 or so people) and told to go outside…and wait.

This is a central theme of the entire experience, waiting. You wait for everything. For most people this was something hard to cope with, from day 1 on. Personally I found it relaxing. In parts of Africa this is called ‘leftover’ or ‘free’ time. Time that passes when you have no control over it, whether it be in shopping mall lines, traffic jams, or the Turkish conscription army, it is time you should relish in. A very African concept that is hard for many Westerners to accept or appriciate.

A major lesson I learned during my stay was to enjoy this time because I had nothing else to worry about. The outside world had it’s own problems, clocks, and schedules. I just had to “stand over there” for an indefinite amount of time. Quite liberating in my mind.

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For the others, groans of all sorts began to crop up almost immediately.

  • Why are we here?
  • Why are we waiting when we could be unloading our bags?
  • This is so disorganized, I thought this place would be organized.

The question “Why” doesn’t exist within the tall gray walls of the Burdur base. Eventually something will happen. During this first hour, the “eventually” ended up being all of us getting on a bus to be driven to some other part of the place. Turkish pop music was playing in the background and it was soothing to be reminded of the outside. It sounds silly, but in such an unfamiliar place, anything that is remotely familiar provides comfort.

People on the bus began to introduce themselves to each other, mostly business people or workers, married with children. I’d be asked countless times, are you married? When I responded (with a proud) “no” I got the same response, “you will be soon then.”

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Lucky we weren’t armed 😉

Bags are searched and any pills that are questionable are taken. Anything that isn’t questionable is taken the next day. Vitamins, diarrheal medicine, Tylenol is all thrown away – better to keep your mouth shut. I remember being all 30 of us being told over and over, “you are not leaving early, anyone. No matter what, so don’t try. Oh and if you are fasting, too bad because you are all getting shots today.” It was Ramazan at the time, “and no praying anywhere except the mescit.”


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