Airports and A Military Coup

Travelling always makes me nervous, even familiar journeys. Since my general anxiety level has risen these journeys have only become more stressful. So flying to Turkey alone was a big deal!

On the 28th of June bombings took place at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. It killed a lot of people, and injured more. I was due to fly on 2nd of July and the events threw uncertainty onto the trip. Although I didn’t feel more at risk due to the events, it was a little close to the mark. Hugely reluctant to surrender my trip I decided to go as planned.

I flew from Gatwick airport in the morning. Knowing I’d be nervous I took extra medication but it didn’t seem to help. In the final half an hour before flying I held back panic. I couldn’t tell you what I was panicking about, but it passed and I swerved a full attack. Headphones in and book in hand I tried to avoid thinking about what was next. It was a very tense couple of hours. Once in the air I began to calm down, I even managed to enjoy my flight.

In Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen I wasted no time heading to their domestic flight area and prepared to wait the six hours anticipated. All the domestic flights were delayed and my extra forty minutes gradually became two hours. The departure lounge was a small area slowly filling up with more people. Again I began to stress more and more. I was hot and tired, but the isolation made it worse. I paid for 4G in order to talk to family and friends to calm my nerves. Again, I was able to find peace on the flight, delighted by the Turkish teenager who had taken it upon herself to translate for the flight assistant.

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On the 15th of July there was a military coup in Turkey, as I’m sure you know. The decision was taken to close the site early and send all those present home. In conservation we turned our attention to architectural conservation and cleaning the site.

Organising the departures of the approximately 70 people present was a huge job, and there was a lot of confusion. In this confusion some people slipped through and were left in less than ideal situations. Hearing about these situations contributed to the steadily increasing unease I was feeling about the situation.

Initially I was supposed to be travelling on the 25th of July. However, it was realised that I would be then be travelling alone. This was something the team were hoping to avoid and it filled me with dread. The plan was then altered and I was to travel on the 24th with a number of other people. We left Çatalhöyük and travelled to Ankara by train where we stayed at a hotel near the airport. The next morning we began our journey’s home. I found talking about my concerns very difficult, often putting the conversation off and accepting what I was given. It can be hard to tell a relative stranger why you’re nervous when you’re always nervous.

Overall the journey was quite smooth, and I managed to keep my nerve until it was just the final two of us and my gate was called. I was still at the bar when boarding was called and I felt a sudden panic. It always starts in my feet; it’s hot and it causes an increase in heart rate through the rest of my body. I resisted the urge to just bolt and said a hurried goodbye. I caught my flight in good time.

Overall it was a huge achievement for me, both personally and academically. I’m pleased I went and would like to thank the team and Zibby Garnet Travel Scholarship for their help.

If you’re interested in what I did in Çatalhöyük or my other conservation projects check out my other blog: https://chloepearceconservation.wordpress.com

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